The Supreme Court recently allowed a group of Muslim women to intervene in a pending Special Leave Petition against the Kerala High Court's decision declining a challenge to Sharia law of inheritance qua Muslim women as violative of Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, and 25 of the Constitution.

The SLP filed in the Supreme Court seeks to ensure that a female Muslim child receives an equal share of inheritance as a male child, when born to a Muslim father. The SLP additionally seeks a directive to amend personal laws, arguing that the Shariat Law concerning the inheritance of Muslim women contravenes Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, and 25 of the Indian Constitution.

In the impugned order, the Kerala High Court had dismissed the PIL stating that said issues cannot be adjudicated by a Court in a Public Interest Litigation. The High Court had also stated that it is for the Legislature to consider the issues raised and frame competent legislation. Aggrieved with the order, the Petitioner, Khuran Sunnath Society, approached the Apex Court.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul allowed the intervention application filed by the applicant Safiya Muhammed and six other Muslim women from Kerala through Advocate Prashant Padmanabhan. In the application, the interveners have contended that practices discriminatory to women in so far as inheritance among Muslims must fall foul of the Constitutional mandate.

The intervenors relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Triple Talaq case [Shayara Bano v. Union of India & Ors. (2017) 9 SCC 1 paras 43, 47,48 and 50] and submitted that the inheritance law in so far as it discriminates against women must be held unconstitutional.

The intervenors argued that the issues raised in the current SLP have already been addressed by the Court as it was previously determined that the 'Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937,' specifically concerning Triple Talaq, falls under the scope of Article 13(1) of the Constitution and should be invalidated.

The intervenors further stated that in the 'Triple Talaq Case,' it was explicitly held that the 1937 Act was legislated before the Constitution came into effect, and it squarely fits within Article 13(1) of the Constitution, which means that the 1937 Act is considered a pre-Constitution law, and it falls under the definition of "laws in force" as per Article 13(3)(b) and if it is found to be inconsistent with the provisions of Part III of the Constitution, it would be subject to Article 13(1) to the extent of that inconsistency.

Highlighting the disparity in Muslim inheritance law, Applicant No.1, Safiya, states in the application that she is a divorcee with parents, a younger brother, and a daughter. However, she is entitled to only half of her brother's share in the inheritance. Furthermore, after her passing, her property is divided between her brother, who already receives twice her share, and her daughter. This complexity extends to her brother's property, part of which goes to their father's brothers.

The Intervention application reads, "All applicants are directly affected parties and wish to intervene in this case to provide assistance to the Court". It has also been submitted that Shariat in its application to Muslims all around the world has not been uniform and has undergone many reforms even in countries following Islamic law.

The SLP is scheduled for listing on October 30, 2023.

Cause Title: Khuran Sunnath Society v. Union Of India & Ors [SLP(C) No. 009546 / 2016]