Woman knocked Supreme Court door again over the Personal Law
After declaring “triple talaq” unconstitutional, Supreme Court to examine “Whether a woman will lose her religious identity upon marrying a man of another religion.”, treating this question to be one that involves gender justice and freedom of an individual to practice one’s own religion, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra constituted a five-judge Bench headed by him to hear the issue involving constitutional questions of law.
This matter got the heat, when a Parsi woman, Goolrokh M Gupta, who despite being married to Hindu under the Special Marriages Act, continued to practice her Zoroastrianism religion but was denied entry into the Parsi worship places to perform her father’s last rites. She approached the Gujarat High Court which gave a decision in 2010 that by virtue of her marriage, the petitioner had acquired the religion of her husband. Thus, the High Court held that she ceased to be a Parsi by faith.
The Parsi woman has challenged the Parsi law that says that a Parsi woman loses her religious rights in the Parsi community after marrying a man from another religion
According to the woman, she was denied entry to the Tower of Silence for the funeral of her father and that there was no law in India which said the wife must adopt her husband’s religion.
The Parsi wife, represented by senior advocate Indira Jaising, submitted before the apex court that this decision had grave consequences on the woman’s right vis-à-vis Parsi men, she contended that this disqualification applied only to women in the community.
Further, she argued that in the Indian Constitution, Article 25-guarantees (right to practice religion) defines religion as a matter of what you actually practice and not as a matter of what you acquire with marriage.
The Bench told Jaising, “We are referring it to five-judge constitution bench” after it understood the gravity of the issue at hand. The occasion may require the court to delve into the personal laws of the Parsis in order to understand whether there is a gender bias behind the practice of keeping out Parsi men who are similarly situated.
The woman, in her appeal filed in 2012 stated that she sought the right to visit the ‘Tower of Silence’ to perform the last rites on the event of her father’s death. Though she continued to follow her Parsi faith, she lost her right to offer prayers at Agiari, a Parsi temple having the ‘holy fire’ and the ‘Tower of Silence’.
Article 25(1) guarantees to every person, and not only to the citizens of India, the “freedom of conscience” and “the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” Hence a restriction on women to follow her religion upon marrying a man of other religion is against an individual’s right guaranteed by Indian constitution.
Arbitrarily withholding a woman from entering into a temple is a violation of Article 25 and it is also against “right to equality” as this Parsi law cannot be explicitly made applicable to women only, hence it defeats the very purpose of Indian constitution to achieve gender justice.