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Indian Case Summary

Khuran Sunnath Society & Others vs Union Of India And Another – Case Summary

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In the case of Khuran Sunnath Society & Others vs Union Of India and Another, the Kerala High Court was presented with a public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the practices of inheritance and succession under Muslim Personal Law, based on Shariat, as being discriminatory towards women. The case was heard by the Honourable Chief Justice Mr. Ashok Bhushan and the Honourable Mr. Justice A.M. Shaffique.

The petitioners, including the Khuran Sunnath Society, the Humanist Centre, and several individuals, argued that the Shariat law, as it is currently interpreted and applied in India, leads to patent discrimination against female children. They contended that a female child does not get an equal share to a male child born to a Muslim father. They further argued that this discrimination is not supported by Quranic principles and is in violation of Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, and 25 of the Constitution of India, which guarantee equality, freedom, and protection of life and personal liberty.

The respondents, including the Union of India and the State of Kerala, countered that the Shariat law has statutory recognition under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937. They argued that any changes to the law should come from a sizeable cross-section of the Muslim community itself, rather than being imposed from outside. They also pointed out that the subject of “Personal Laws” falls under the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, meaning that both the State Legislature and Parliament have the competence to make laws on the subject.

The court noted that the petitioners were essentially challenging the Muslim Personal Law based on Shariat and seeking a declaration that it is violative of the Constitution. The court also noted that the Shariat Act has been given statutory recognition, and any changes to it would have to be made by the competent legislature.

The case brings to the fore the complex interplay between religious personal laws and the constitutional principles of equality and non-discrimination. It highlights the ongoing debates around the need for reform in personal laws and the challenges involved in balancing religious freedoms with the principles of equality and justice.