• Topic of triple talaq needs more extensive debate: SC

    June 30, 2016

    The topic of triple talaq has been dragged on by political parties, community leaders and the judiciary system for many months. But it seems that the Supreme Court of India has not yet arrived on a concrete result or law on the infamous triple talaq law.

    The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of 'triple talaq', which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.

    A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar appeared to have an open mind about reconsidering, if need be, any earlier judgment that placed personal laws beyond the ambit of judicial scrutiny. In July 2014, the SC had ruled that fatwas issues by muftis had no legal sanction and no one could be forced to abide by them. However, it had refused to enter the domain of examining the constitutional validity of Muslim personal law provisions.

    Last year, the SC, suo motu, began to examine the effect of 'triple talaq' on Muslim women's rights. Since then, Shayara Banu, a victim of the practice, as well as many Muslim women's organisations have jumped into the fray to assail its validity. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has defended 'triple talaq' and said the SC has no jurisdiction to decide its validity.

    Farah Faiz, Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh (RMMS) president, stole the show before CJI Thakur and Justice Khanwilkar with a speech on how the AIMPLB and Muslim bodies had started operating sharia courts to impose rigid practices on unsuspecting Muslims.

    "Women's rights are equally protected by the Constitution. But these sharia courts and qazis do not allow women to enforce their rights. Defiance invites ostracisation. AIMPLB is attempting to give a religious tone to the debate on the validity of 'triple talaq' by terming it a practice ordained by Quran," Faiz said.

    The bench, however, turned down Faiz's demand that votaries of 'triple talaq' be restrained from airing their views on TV and other media. "This is an important matter. There can be strong views on both sides. It is good that people are expressing their views. Let there be a debate," it said.
    The SC permitted a host of people, NGOs and women's organisations, including the Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (through Irfan Engineer) and Bebaak Collective (through Hasina Khan), to become parties in the pending proceedings, and asked the Centre's counsel Madhvi Divan to file a response in six weeks.

    The AIMPLB, through senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, said there had been court ruling which barred courts from examining the validity of personal law practices.

    Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for two NGOs, said AIMPLB was referring to a very old judgement given by the first Indian chief justice of Bombay HC, MC Chagla. The bench said it had an open mind on the issue. "If the issue — whether the court can test the validity of a personal law practice — requires reconsideration, we might refer the matter to a larger bench. But, let us first examine what is the scope of the court's adjudication power in this context," it said. The court fixed September 6 for further hearing on the issue.


    The mood in the country about this situation is one of confusion. The very Muslims who swear by Muslim law should keep in mind that there is a stark difference in the laws related to any heinous crime in Muslim countries and India. If they are so true to the Muslim laws, then the culprits for murders and adultery should also be tried and sentenced under the Muslim laws – which directly translates to inhuman punishment and in severe cases death. A need for a Uniform Civil Code is paramount. If the SC does not take notice of this, the country will be at a loss, although the apex court has promised that it will look beyond any notion putting regional and religious laws before the judicial system of the country.

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