October 2, 2022

Doctrine of ‘laan’ in Muslim Law

In muslim law, ‘Laan’ means allegation against the wife of sexual intercourse with other. In Muslim law, if husband makes such allegations and that allegations are false, the wife is entitled to get dissolved the marriage.

It is always better to understand a matter with example. Therefore, we will also examine the ‘doctrine of Laan’ through the actual case law on it.

Zafar Husain vs Ummat-Ur-Rahman-1919[1]

Facts of the Case

Wife’s case

  • A wife named Musammat Ummat-ur-Rahman filed a suit for dissolution of marriage against her husband Zafar Husain.
  • The reason given was that the defendant has treated the plaintiff with cruelty, intended to kill her or out off her nose, stated before several persons that the plaintiff had illicit inter-course with her brother, Aziz-ur-Rahman, and imputed fornication to her.

Husband’s Case

The written statement filed by Zafar Husain was that the plaintiff’s claim had been brought on false allegations. There was no ill feeling between the plaintiff and himself nor quarrel. No charge has been made by the husband against the wife of misconduct with her brother. The story had been invented by the members of the wife’s family. The plaintiff is literate and sensible and has always been obedient and doing her duty towards the defendant (wife).

Case at lower Courts

District Court

The Court of first instance, i.e., the Subordinate Judge of Farrukhabad, declared the marriage to be dissolved.

First Appeal

The husband then went in appeal to the Additional District Judge of Farrukhabad. That Judge found that the doctrine of “laan” is still part of the Mudammadan Law which has to be administered in Indian Courts.

He found that the allegations of misconduct were as a matter of fact made by the husband, that there had been no retraction by the husband. He held as the result that the lady was entitled to claim judicial separation. He confirmed the decree of the Court of first instance.

He also found, upon the plea that no fair opportunity had been given to the husband to examine the witnesses, against the husband, that the husband had had such opportunity, but had not availed himself of it.

Appeal in High Court

In appeal, husband made several pleas,

(1) That the law of “laan” has no place in Anglo-Muhammadan Law and must be considered obsolete.

(2) That “laan” does no more than give the wife the option of applying to the Court to put the husband upon the alternative of either retracting the accusation or stating on oath his wife’s treachery and no suit for dissolution of marriage is maintainable without the above formality being strictly complied with.

(3) That the husband has not only not made the accusation of his wife’s infidelity on oath but has sworn his wife to be faithful to him and sued his wife for restitution of conjugal rights.

(4) That assuming that the husband charged his wife with infidelity, the statement of the husband on oath coupled with the statements in the duly verified plaint and his whole course of conduct, amounted to a retraction of the accusation.

(5) That no suit for dissolution of marriage was maintainable.

(6) That the appellant was prejudiced by no proper opportunity being given to him for the production of his evidence. And lastly that the appellant is entitled to a decree for restitution of conjugal rights.

First Plea- ‘Laan’ has no place in Anglo-Mohammadan Law

The court referred the work of Muhammad Yusuf, Khan Bahadur’s Muhammadan Law. Muhammad Yusuf, Khan Bahadur, in his Muhammadan Law[2],  gives a full account of “laan” and the accuracy of the account there given has not been seriously questioned.

The meaning of ‘laan’ and procedure to get dissolved the marriage

  • when a Muhammadan makes an allegation of misconduct against his wife and the wife denies the same, both parties can go to the Kazi.
  • The husband, in the presence of the Kazi, four times over repeats his allegation of misconduct before the Kazi, strengthens it by an oath, that oath being accompanied by the use of the word “laan” or curse of God.
  • The wife gives testimony also four times over and accompanies her testimony by the use of the word ghazab.
  • If either of the persons refuse to make laan the Kazi is to imprison that person who refuses until he or she makes the laan.
  • If both husband and wife have made their respective oaths, etc. the Kazi can effect separation between them.

The court in the present case, noted that the Kazi in the present day is replaced by the Court and the lower court rightly found against the husband and pronounced a separation between husband and wife.

The court further noted that, no authority had been cited in the present case against the laan nor do court had known any which has pronounced that the doctrine of “laan” has no farther place in Anglo-Muhammadan Law or that it should be considered obsolete. Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, Khan Bahadur, mentioned it as still prevalent.

The court then again referred work of Wilson. Sir R. K. Wilson in his Anglo-Muhammadan Law[3], says:

“The fact of a husband having (whether truly or falsely) charged his wife with adultery, will (probably) entitle her to claim a judicial divorce, without prejudice to any proceedings for defamation which she may be advised to institute, and independently of the result of any such proceedings,” and in the next chapter deals with it as still part of the Ango-Muhammadan Law.”

The first plea is, therefore, decided against the appellant.

Baillie in his Muhammadan Law after describing the form of “laan” goes on to say at page 338:

“When both parties have taken the laan the Judge is to separate them.”

Second Plea

The second plea that no suit for dissolution was maintainable until the husband had been given the option of retraction of the accusation of his wife’s adultery.

The court found this plea untenable having regard to the authorities on the subject.

The reason of the proceeding of laan

The proceeding known as laan or imprecation is only a procedure which either the wife or the husband could adopt before a Kazi or Judge. The reason for it is stated by Mr. Ameer Ali in the following terms:

“Under the Musalman Law, a charge of adultery preferred by a husband against his wife can only be established by the direct testimony of four witnesses to the fact. From the nature of the offence, however, the oases in which ocular and direct evidence is available are extremely rare.

In order to obviate the evils which would necessarily result from a denial of all redress to the injured husband, in those numerous instances, where he is morally convinced of the guilt of his wife, but has no direct testimony to establish it, or when he alone is cognisant of the fact, the law has prescribed the proceeding by laan.”

The court reiterated that the Muhammadan Law of evidence being no longer in force and the ordinary Courts having taken the place of Kazis, these Courts are the authorities which should make a decree for divorce on being satisfied according to the ordinary rules of evidence that a false imputation was made by the husband and it is unnecessary to comply with the formalities of laan.

With this, the court also dismissed all pleas as the answer of these plea has been given by the court in afore-mentioned discussion.

The other authorities referred by the Court

The law on the subject was stated in Shama Charan Sircar’s Muhammadan Law, Tagore Law Lectures for 1873, at page 406:

“if a Husband charges his wife with adultery…the charge is investigated by the Kazi, who, upon proof, thereof, issues a decree of separation between the husband and the wife and thus their marriage is dissolved, The separation so effected is an irreversible divorce.”

Mr. Ameer Ali lays down the rule in the following terms in Volume II of his well-known work on Muhammadan Law, page 575, 3rd Edition:

“When a false accusation (of adultery) is preferred against a woman, and the husband is unable to establish the charge, the woman is entitled to obtain a divorce from the Court.”

Reference

Zafar Husain vs Ummat-Ur-Rahman, 1919: 49 Ind Cas 256


[1] 49 Ind Cas 256

[2] Volume II, Edition 1898, page 352 et seq

[3] 4th Edition, 1912, paragraph 76