Even as the Supreme Court is examining the contentious issue of triple talaq, a Parsi woman has challenged the practice of jury trial under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act.
This prompted the Supreme Court on Friday to seek the Central government's response on the Act which allows local Parsi community to act as jury in the grant of divorce to an estranged couple.
The bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Amitava Roy sought response on a petition by Naomi Sam Irani from Maharashtra who has challenged the 1936 law that gave voice to local Parsi community in the grant of divorce to an estranged husband and wife, wondering why such a law has not been challenged so far.
The matter will come up for hearing next week when the Central government responds.
What is a jury trial? It is a system through which a group of citizens either arrive at a decision in a case or take up fact-finding. Using these, they then direct the judge.
India did away with jury trials in 1959. The controversial Nanavati case was the last to be tried using the jury trial system. The case captured the imagination of thousands and even inspired the Akshay Kumar-Ileana Dâ€™Cruz starrer Rustom. Read more about it here.
An exception however are Parsi divorce cases which continue to be tried by a five-member jury. These five jurors are retired and influential members of the Parsi community who are nominated by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet for a 10-year term.
This matrimonial court convenes sessions few times annually at the Bombay High Court to decide on these cases. However, matters of alimony and child custody do not fall in its jurisdiction. Reportedly, this also makes the Parsi matrimonial courts the only body of personal law which continue to have a jury system.
Irani has contended that the involvement of local Parsi community in matter of matrimonial dispute violated her fundamental rights. The Act itself dates from the pre-independence era. Irani contested the legitimacy given by law to the practice of local Parsis being given opportunity to express their opinions in a very personal matter which has little to do with them.
"This court has invalidated 1800-year-old practice of triple talaq when found discriminatory and unconstitutional. Let this law be also tested," Iraniâ€™s lawyer told the court. Incidentally, Justice Joseph was also one of the judges who presided over the triple talaq case.
Urging the court to intervene in the matter, the petitioner has also asked as to why Parsi woman can't approach family courts for the settlement of matrimonial disputes.