British Muslim woman seeks divorce from Kashmiri husband
An otherwise ordinary divorce suit has assumed international dimensions with lawyers arguing that a British court has no jurisdiction to hear it, while the court has awarded her the custody of the son. The short story of a British woman Rachel Ann Poppy, rechristened Shahiba after her conversion to Islam, seeking divorce from her Kashmiri Muslim husband Muhammad Ayub Malla is becoming a protracted legal saga.
The divorce suit filed by Rachel in a London court has raised legal eyebrows here while her lawyer and her husbandâ€™s lawyer argue over the case through video conferencing.
The question whether the London court has any legal jurisdiction to pass judgement in the case remains to be answered, say legal experts.
The story began in the 2004 spring when Muhammad Ayub Malla of Srinagar, Kashmir met Rachel Poppy, 43, a psychiatric nurse by profession, in Goa.
On September 10, 2004, they married under an agreement executed on the same day.
Before the marriage Rachel in an affidavit stated, â€œ I Rachel Ann Poppy have professed Islam out of my free will and consent without any force, fraud, coercion, undue influence or misinterpretation whatsoever from any quarter and after professing Islam, I have entered into a married wedlock out of my own willingness in a state of sound mindedness with one Muhammad Ayub Malla after nominating (rechristening) myself as Shahiba, the converted name under Islam and I shall lead my marital life under Muslim Personal Law with my said legally wedded husband as a Muslim wife sincerely, as provided by Islam.â€Â
After a month the couple went to Goa again this time for honeymoon where â€œmisunderstandingsâ€Â erupted. In November 2004, Malla according to Rachel became verbally abusive and called her names. â€œOn new yearâ€™s eve, Ayub became physically abusive and hit me in the face in front of friends on the beach at Baga Goa,â€Â said Rachel.
Meanwhile, Rachel was expecting and went to see her parents in London where she gave birth to a son, Samir George Poppy.
She filed a petition for possession of Samir in Truro County Court London. The county court granted Rachel possession rights of her son without hearing the father Muhammad Ayub Malla.
However, Ayubâ€™s lawyer says the British court cannot.
â€œThe court in London has no jurisdiction whatsoever and cannot rule in favour of Rachel,â€Â said Bashir Siddique Ayubâ€™s lawyer.
â€œSince Shahiba (previously Rachel) has converted to Islam and got married in Kashmir she has to undergo trial in Kashmir and according to Muslim Personal Law,â€Â Siddique adds.
Interestingly, the London court has scheduled a second hearing for October 2, where arguments will be heard through video conferencing.
The intercontinental case is being closely watched by the lawyersâ€™ community.
Cross country marriage at cross roads
Can a London court decide divorce petition of an English woman who married a Kashmiri in Srinagar and converted to Islam?