Supreme Court rules male family members deciding Nikkahnama terms puts brides at disadvantage

Mahnoor Jalal

Mahnoor Jalal


On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced the ruling forbidding male members of families from deciding terms of a Nikahnama on behalf of a bride, which would put her at a disadvantage in the relationship.

According to Dawn, the decision was announced by Justices Aminud Din Khan and Athar Minaullah, in a case regarding whether a divorced wife could keep a plot entitled to her in the Nikahnama.

Mohammad Yousef, who had married Huma Saeed in May 2o14 and later divorced her in October 2014, took this case to the Supreme Court after the Lahore High Court decided in favour of the wife on 2022.

In his written complaint, Yousaf said the plot was meant for construction of a house, and was to remain with the wife as long as they remained married. The petition said under column 17, under which the plot was mentioned, was titled ‘special conditions’ “making it distinct from the other columns which have been specifically provided for the purposes of settling the terms of dower,” it read.

According to the ruling by the bench, the description of the property in the Nikahnama did not support such a stance. It also emphasised on the need of brides gaining a proper understanding of the terms and conditions of a Nikahnama, so she has the freedom to negotiate and settle for terms.

Justice Minaullah said brides are placed at a disadvantage to decide their Nikah terms on their own free will because of how it is seen as an acceptable cultural norm for male members of the family to decide the terms and conditions of a Nikahnama.

The bench ruled the Nikahnama “is a deed of marriage contract” decided by two parties, and it’s clauses must be interpreted as according to the expectations of both partners.

“The courts, while interpreting the contents and terms and conditions of a [Nikahnama], also have to take into consideration the factor of free consent of the bride and her freedom to settle the terms and conditions as a person having an informed understanding of her rights,” read the verdict.

In case of any ambiguity of the terms, the Supreme Court rules the ruling goes in favor of the wife as she was not informed of her rights at the rime the Nikahnama was signed.