Woman's religion does not merge with husband's faith after marriage

Lester Mason
December 8, 2017

The bench said, "Marriage does not mean that the woman has become the hostage of her husband".

Is it not gender discrimination, the Chief Justice asked, wondering "How can you (Parsi elders) distinguish between a man and woman singularly by a biological phenomenon, when no law debars a woman from retaining her religious identity".

"There is no law which says that a woman loses religious identity after marrying a man from another faith".

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was dealing a legal question whether a Parsi woman loses her religious identity if she marries a man from a different religion.

The genesis of the dispute lies in the fact that the Parsi or Zoroastrian religion does not allow entry of non-Parsis in the Fire Temple or Tower of Silence because of its orthodox priests.

Yazdi Desai, chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, said the Gujarat High Court had examined the case legally and ruled against Ms. Gupta. The Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust restrained Gupta from participating in the funerary rites of her father. The court held there is "deemed conversion" in an inter-religious marriage as no provision in SMA protects the religion of the woman after marriage. "It is hardly required to be stated that such principle is generally accepted throughout the world and therefore, until the marriage, after the name of the woman, the name of the father is being mentioned and after the marriage, name of husband is being mentioned for the goal of further describing her identity..."

The Bench said the crucial question before it is to decide whether a religious principle has dominance over the constitutional identity of a Parsi woman. Incidentally, Goolrokh's advocate on record in the SC is her sister Shiraz Contractor Patodia.

When the court said that if the Anjuman agrees to permit the petitioner to attend her father's funeral, then it would not proceed with the matter as then it would be of academic interest, Indira Jaising told the court that if the Sabrimala matter is referred to the constitution bench, then this too should be heard.

In the present case, Goolrokh continues to practice and profess Parsi religion despite marrying a Hindu. Prima facie there is no case for accepting the application of the doctrine of merger.

The Supreme Court asked the Valsad Parsi Trust to apprise it by December 14 whether it could allow the complainant to attend the last rites of her parents. The top court scheduled the matter for December 14 for further hearing.

Earlier, CJI Mishra said nobody could take away the right of the Parsi woman to visit the fire temple unless she herself chose to convert to some other religion.

"It (the Valsad trust bar) amounts to ex-communication from my religion. That tantamounts to a contravention of the right to association guaranteed under Article 19." . A Parsi man getting married to a non-Parsi woman would not be so discriminated.

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Parsi Anjuman of Valsad, Gujarat, not to bar a woman married to a Hindu from attending the funeral of her father as and when he dies, since she has retained her identity as a Parsi by marrying under the Special Marriage Act. Two persons belonging to the same faith could also marry under the Act. The matter was referred to the apex court's constitution bench as it involved the fundamental right to practise any religion.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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