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LAHORE: A local court sentenced on Wednesday a man to six months in prison with a fine of Rs200,000 for getting married for a third time without taking permission from his second wife.

However, Judicial Magistrate Syed Ali Jawad Naqvi suspended the imprisonment of Shahzada Saqib Sohail after he furnished bail bonds of Rs50,000.

Ayesha Khalil had filed a private complaint against Saqib Sohail for contracting marriage without seeking her permission. The complainant’s counsel argued before the court that the defendant had not sought permission from his client as well as from the arbitration council for contracting another marriage. He further said the defendant at the time of marriage with the complainant concealed his earlier marriage and posed himself as a bachelor.

The defendant’s counsel argued that the complainant filed the case with nefarious designs and to harass his client. He said the complainant had not been living with her husband for one year before the third marriage took place.

The magistrate observed that the defendant contracted the marriage during the existence of his earlier marriage with the complainant, therefore, [he is] liable to be convicted under Section 6(5) of the Muslim Family Ordinance, 1961.

Such punishments are not new, however, the sentence and the amount of fine was enhanced in 2015 through an amendment in the relevant provision of the ordinance. The amended law says the simple imprisonment may extend to one year.

The condition of seeking consent [from wife] for contracting another marriage has been criticised by religious circles for being against the teachings of Islam.

A wit petition challenging the law is also pending adjudication before the Lahore High Court. Advocate Safdar Shaheen Pirzada, who represents the petitioner, argues that section 6(1) of the ordinance is in contravention or direct conflict with the Quran, which is the supreme law for Muslims. He says the Quran has categorically stated that there is no need to get prior permission from any of the wives.

The section about polygamy reads: “No man, during the subsistence of an existing marriage, shall, except with the previous permission in writing of the Arbitration Council, contract another marriage, nor shall any such marriage contracted without such permission be registered under this ordinance.”

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2017