Clerics order divorcee to marry a man aged 70

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ISLAMIC clerics in eastern India have ruled that a woman divorced by her husband in a fit of drunkenness can remarry him only after she takes another husband for a day.

Ershad, a rickshaw puller, uttered "talaq", or divorce, three times earlier this month while he was drunk, and when news leaked out in their village in the eastern Orissa state, the clerics said the couple must separate.

"The couple had kept it under wraps and continued to stay together, but the clerics ruled that since Ershad uttered the word talaq three times, it constituted a divorce," said the district police chief, Shatrughan Parida.

Under the ruling, the woman must marry another man and obtain a divorce from him before she can be reunited with Ershad, with whom she has three children. The clerics at their local mosque have said the man the woman marries temporarily must be 70, Mr Parida said.

Muslims, who constitute over 13 per cent of India's mainly Hindu population, are governed by special personal laws, including marriage laws. But in many remote rural areas, local clerics pass diktats on social issues before they reach court.

Earlier this year, another Muslim couple in the West Bengal state was told by religious leaders they must separate after the man uttered "talaq" thrice in his sleep. The couple refused the order and still live together.