India’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Indian law forbids Muslim people to practice polygamy.
The law protects a person’s right to believe in any religion, but does not protect all religious practices, said the justices who heard the case.
They added they ruled against allowing polygamy because the practice is not a main aspect to the Islamic faith.
"What was protected under (Constitutional) Article 25 (right to practice and propagate any religion) was the religious faith and not a practice which may run counter to public order, health or morality,” said Justices TS Thakur and AK Goel. “Polygamy was not integral part of religion and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25."
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Islamic tradition teaches that while monogamous marriages are the ideal type of relationship, it allows polygyny, a type of polygamy that limits the number of wives a man can have at one time to four.
In order to marry a second wife, a man must be approved by a family court and prove he can equally provide for both spouses.
Khursheed Ahmad Khan, an irrigation supervisor, filed the suit after getting fired on the grounds of misconduct. According to a police probe, Khan married Anjum Begum while still married to his first wife, Sabina Begum.
After investigating the case, government officials decided to remove Khan from his position because he violated UP Government Servant Conduct Rule 29. The rule states a person must get previous permission from his or her first spouse before getting married a second time.
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Khan brought his case before the Allahabad high court, but it dismissed Khan’s original challenge.
Supreme Court justices upheld rulings in lower courts in Bombay, Gujarat and Allahabad. Those courts compared the UP Government Servant Conduct Rules and Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, finding the conduct rules did not violate the Constitution.