In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court, the apex of all Indian courts, struck down the practice of instant ‘triple talaq‘ among Muslims on 22nd August 2017, calling it ‘unconstitutional’. Everyone from the government to political leaders and activists hailed the verdict, and PM Modi even described it as a powerful measure for women empowerment.
Yes, it is a victory for women’s freedom but one has to remember that following terms and conditions apply to this judgment.
1. The decision bars only instant triple talaq
In May, when the former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi requested SC to take up the 3 cases- instant triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala- SC had chosen to focus solely on triple talaq.
Also, triple talaq has 3 forms namely talaq-e-biddat, talaq ahsan and talaq hasan, which was “recognised and enforced” under the Shariat Act of 1937.
The SC’s ruling deals only with talaq-e-biddat which is instant talaq and allowed Muslim men to divorce the wife by saying ‘talaq’ thrice including over texts, Skype and Whatsapp.
However, with 1 verdict done, the SC will have to move to review cases of polygamy and nikah halala to improve the conditions of Muslim women.
2. The decision does not mean India has a Uniform Civil Code
In order for the Centre to function and meet the deadline, the SC has asked the Centre to keep the issue of UCC separate from the new law. However, as the BJP government has always wanted a Uniform Civil Code, this could be viewed as a win towards their greater goal.
In 2016, the Law Commission had initiated the process to seek views and opinions of all the states and other stakeholders on UCC. This process will speed up in coming days due to this new verdict and the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on BJP’s mind.
3. The duty to ensure that triple talaq remains barred lies on the Parliament
The government had supported the petitioners and was awaiting the go ahead by the SC. Since other Muslim countries have been able to draw a balance between religion and freedom, India can achieve the feat as well.
While the SC has put the practice of triple talaq on hold for a period of 6 months, it has asked the government to come up with a law in regards to the practice.
Although with a deadline of 6 months, the Centre will have to legislate in record time, while keeping in mind concerns about Muslim bodies and the Sharia law. The bill will have smooth sailing in Lok Sabha, where BJP enjoys a majority. However, it could face a hitch in Rajya Sabha, where it falls short of a majority by 36 members.
4. As a few Muslim leaders see it as a failure, the decision’s enforcement seems to be skeptical
Majority of groups including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the apex body of Muslim clerics, welcomed the decision. That doesn’t mean there was no criticism. Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, spoke against the ruling, calling it the failure of AIMPLB. Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, another influential body of Muslim clerics, opposed the ruling calling the judgment being “against Islamic Sharia.”
Even though it has been hailed historic, India wasn’t the 1st in line to do so. A total of 19 Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have already banned instant triple talaq. The reason for the delayed judgment in India is mainly due to the personal law protecting the practice. Many successive governments had always treated it as a religious freedom. But with an increase in petitions filed by women seeking justice, the Supreme Court was forced to take a decision for good.