In the annals of Indian judiciary 22nd August 2017 will go down as historic because it is this day when the Supreme Court of India in a split decision banned the Islamic practice of Triple Talaq. This is a right which a Muslim husband has under the Sharia to instantly grant divorce to his wife verbally and in many cases via speed post, skype and even whatsapp. Islamic groups such as All India Muslim personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and political leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi an Indian politician, who is the President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen a Islamist political party apposed this case on the grounds that it was an infringement into the personal lives of Muslims.
But the court in a majority ruling given justice Justices Kurian Joseph, Nariman and U.U Lalit ruled for scrapping of the practice. The minority ruling was given by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and S. Abdul Nazeer who decided to upheld the validity of the practice and where of the opinion that it is the job of the elected law makers of India who represent the people in Parliament to bring in a legislation governing Muslim marriages and divorce within six months.
The tension was palpable on both sides because on the one side where Muslim women who have endured suffering and hardship due to this archaic practice imposed on them where the husband can arbitrarily end marriage without any explanation. On the other side was the Muslim religious right afraid of losing hegemony over women and calling this a violation of their rights guaranteed under the constitution. But the court ruled that arbitrary Triple Talaq is invalid under the laws of the constitution and against the tenants of Quran.
Speaking to reporters Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party said “I welcome the historic decision of the Supreme Court on the matter of triple talaq. This is a victory for the fundamental constitutional rights and equal rights of Muslim women. There are many Muslim countries where triple talaq does not exist. With this decision the Supreme Court has given rights to the crores of Muslim women in the country to live with equality and self-esteem.”
Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, also known as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) welcomed this decision amid distribution of sweets because this has been a long and uphill battle where they had to face political apathy and vote bank politics. There was at first some confusion and many who sided with the Muslim clergy started to celebrate after the Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Khehar was in the favor of putting on hold for six months the practice of triple talaq and asking the government to come out with a law in this regard and make this matter political rather than a question of women’s right and protection of women’s right under the constitution of India.
But when the majority majority verdict by Justices Kurien Joseph, Justice Rohington Nariman and UU Lalit rad “Triple Talaq may be a permissible practice but it retrograde and unworthy. Since triple talaq is instant it is irrevocable and the marital tie gets broken. It is violative of Article 14, the right to equality” for the first time in seventy years since our freedom Muslim women could breathe a sigh of relief. History will not be kind to Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer who in their ruling said while triple talaq “may be sinful”, the court can’t interfere in personal laws which have the status of fundamental right under the constitution.
But many experts believe this ruling to be the precursor of Uniform Civil Code which will dramatically change the current matters of marriage, inheritance and property rights in Islam. This all goes back to 1978 when a 60 years of women named Shah Bano was divorced by her husband and she had the audacity to go to court to seek justice and justice was served court ruled in her favor. The court ruled that Shah Bano was entitled to maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (with an upper limit of Rs. 500 a month) like any other Indian woman but fearing political backlash from the Muslims the then Indian National Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which cut the legs of the ruling given by the honorable Supreme Court of India whose prime responsibility is to defend the constitution.
Its most controversial provision was it only gave a Muslim woman the right to maintenance for the period of iddat (about three months) after the divorce, and shifted the onus of maintaining her to her relatives or the Wakf Board. Just for securing votes the Congress party violated the fundamental rights of Muslim women who in most cases did not posses any basic education and it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which women of other faiths where assured under secular law.
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