Does The SC Ban On Triple Talaq Open Avenues For Evolving A Uniform Civil Code !
The Supreme Court’s majority verdict on triple talaq has far reaching import. The Constitution bench reminded the legislators it was their job to enact laws.
The Supreme Court’s majority verdict banning triple talaq as unconstitutional is a long awaited progressive step in the emancipation of Muslim women along with ensuring gender equality. The decision has been widely welcomed even as this horrendous practice had already been outlawed in several Muslim countries.
This paves the way for creating a uniform civil code in keeping with the three-point agenda of the RSS, the mentor of the BJP. The other two pertains to building a Ram Temple in the pilgrim centre of Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution according special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The judgement focussed on triple talaq. It did not address issues like nikah halala or the unilateral privilege of men using two other ways of divorce — talaq-e-ahsan and talaq-e-hasan. The government should perhaps ask the Law Commission to undertake a detailed review of all personal and civil laws so that these did not violate fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution.
This judgement brings to the fore the struggle along with the pain and torture meted out to women like Shayara Bano and others who approached the Supreme Court. Its significance cannot be undermined as it is the first time that Muslim women have challenged an Islamic practice being violative of their fundamental rights.
That Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his government’s support and that of the people at large to ‘Muslim sisters’ from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort during his independence Day address earlier this month on August 15 in their struggle to fight injustice and obstructionist elements in Islam is significant.
This has won the support of the Muslim women for the Lotus party irrespective of what their elders might advice them when it comes to exercising their franchise. It is an entirely different matter that the judgement suits the political establishment at the Centre.
On the other hand the minority verdict felt instead of supporting the petitioners, the government should have been legislating against instant talaq. The court should not be asked to do the job of legislators. It is time the government stopped pushing courts on sensitive issues that the legislature must act on.
The Constitution bench reminded Legislators that they have been elected to enact laws. It may be recalled that Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had stated in May that once the Supreme Court had passed its resolution the government would pass laws that would introspect Muslim divorce rules, specifically keeping in mind the violation of women’s rights.
Banning of triple talaq has created a piquant situation for West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee as well Samajwadi party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav who cannot seem to be supporting regressive action like instant triple talaq.
This verdict with far reaching import comes 31 years after a government with a decisive majority in Parliament overturned a court intervention on Muslim personal law in the Shah Bano case. This had steeled the resolve among the women of the minority community compelling the Muslim Personal Law Board to take serious note necessitating course correction.
Justice Rohinton Nariman, writing for himself and Justice U U Lalit, held that the 1937 Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act had codified all Muslim personal law, including the practice of triple talaq. This brought it within the bounds of the Constitution. He maintained that because talaq-e-biddat allowed unchecked power to the Muslim husbands to divorce their wives, without any scope for reconciliation, it was “arbitrary”, and failed the test of Article 14 of the Constitution. The practice was, therefore, unconstitutional, Justice Nariman added.
Modi observed on twitter that the judgement finally granted equality to Muslim women and presented a path to pursue powerful measures for women empowerment.
(The Views Are Personal.)