In a verdict on Muslim soldiers living in plural marriage, the Chandigarh bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) ruled on Tuesday that “what is permissive under the scripture cannot be equated with a mandate that amounts to religious practice”.
It added that “a bigamous marriage among Muslims is neither religious practice nor religious belief, and certainly not a religious injunction or mandate”. The bench ruled that air force regulations restrained any personnel from having more than one wife, though Muslims get liberty if the she deserts them, is declared mentally unstable, or her infidelity is proved. Further marriage comes only with permission from the competent authority.
Dismissing the petition of a Muslim soldier, Kalimul Gazi, who was last posted at Halwara in Ludhiana and dismissed from the air force for marrying twice without permission, justice Surinder Singh Thakur said the force rules don’t say that individuals of particular religion can have four wives, or having more than one wife is part of religion. “It is neither made obligatory by the religion nor it is a matter of conscience,” he added.
Gazi of West Bengal and a corporal in the air force first married Najmunnahar in 2009. He has a daughter from that marriage. In 2012, he married Razia Khatun and they had a son. He disclosed that to the air force himself, after which a Court of Inquiry was conducted in 2013. He argued that his religion permitted him to keep four wives. He was sacked on September 8, 2014.
The judgment added that “it is a clear case of violation of the regulations (under para 579 of the air force regulations), the object and intent of which is to maintain public order, morality, health, and force discipline. The self-declaration by the petitioner doesn’t condone the aforesaid illegality. Therefore, the penalty... cannot be... held shockingly disproportionate to the proved allegations”.