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Divorcing from orthodoxy: Supreme Court bans triple talaq

Divorcing from orthodoxy: Supreme Court bans triple talaq

By Kriti Gupta

Triple talaq is a procedure of divorce in Islam whereby a man can legally divorce his wife by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice. This could be done either orally or in a written form. However, with the advent of technology, this form of divorce led to the dismissal of many women from their marriage over Skype and WhatsApp.

In March 2017, over one million Indian Muslims—a majority of whom were women—signed a petition to end triple talaq. The petition was started by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, an Islamic organisation affiliated with the right-wing Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

On 22nd August 2017, the Supreme Court declared Talaq-e-biddat as illegal and unconstitutional, rendering this form of divorce ineffective from now onwards. Three judges on the five-judge Constitution bench decided against triple talaq while two ruled in favour.  

Destitute and divorced

Many women were left destitute after they were divorced by their husbands. One such case is that of Bobby Khatun from Khidderpore. She got married in 2014 after completing her graduation. However, her relationship with her husband foreshadowed a bitter end from the beginning as torture and humiliation clouded her married life. Bobby Khatun said that ”They would beat me up and demand dowry. I was beaten up even after I conceived. When my mother noticed the bruises on my body she brought me back to her house. I lodged a police complaint. By sending a few documents my husband said that he has divorced me. I didn’t receive the papers which came by post. He later sent me a picture of the documents on WhatsApp and told me that we are divorced”.

Many Muslim women have faced domestic violence and harassment from their in-laws in light of this practice. The reasons often given were as petty as not being able to give birth to a male child or to not bringing enough dowry after marriage. Women who have been victims of such a separation were left alone without any family support or legal backing.

Enjoying fundamental rights

Supreme Court’s verdict has not only brought a huge relief to Muslim women but has also made their status more powerful in the society. Now, women can not only report such matters to the judicial bodies, but also defend themselves in courts and protect their civil rights.

Niaz of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan believes that “Now, Muslim women will be able to enjoy their fundamental rights and have a codified law that will guarantee them their fundamental rights. Just like the Hindu personal law which has legal backing, the law for Muslims should have the same”.

Interceding in religious matters?

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a non-governmental body which oversees the application of Muslim personal law has opposed the ban saying that the court shouldn’t intercede in religious matters, and customs and traditions can’t be tested by the legislation.

Kapil Sibal, Congress leader called the judiciary’s interference in the proceedings a ‘slippery slope’ and suggested that it should refrain from touching personal laws in the future.

The Indian Judicial system has often abstained from passing any verdicts on religious matters. It has especially avoided doing so in issues rooted in Islam, as Muslim affairs are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 and non-governmental organisation like AIMPLB. In not passing any laws on the cases of marital rape and decriminalizing homosexuality, the court has acquired a reputation of taking a back seat in issues pertaining to the patriarchy.

Towards modern egalitarianism

By declaring triple talaq as null and void, the judiciary has not only taken a step forward towards an egalitarian society but has also re-established itself as a governing body that doesn’t let old guidelines affect a modern and mature society. As many as 19 countries have banned the practice of triple talaq including the country’s immediate neighbour, Pakistan. Constitutional rules that were prepared at the time of a newly independent India shouldn’t impose atrocities on the post-independent society of today.

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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