Beginning of a new epoch for Muslim women

Recently with the verdict of the Supreme Court calling the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional has paved a golden way towards religious reforms in the Muslim personal laws against the practices that were derogatory to a woman’s dignity. BUT this is just a beginning.  Much has to be done; though we cannot deny it is a very strong and historic beginning, one can say probably the process of reforms in Muslim personal laws has just begun and this is a very strong process and is very important because a process well begun is half done.

Triple talaq was a burning issue and a topic of discussion for the past many years. We were constantly bombarded with many debates in news channels as well as newspapers about its validity, and the injustice and the cruel practices followed causing nightmares to Muslim women. Incidents such as talaq via WhatsApp, Skype, letter, cell phones were shocking and made us wonder how technology could be used in this way as well.  As rightly being said by someone, when a new technology is invented you not only find how to use it in various ways but you also try to find how to misuse it in many ways as well.

The triple talaq controversy started when Shayara Bano approached the Court, for assailing the divorce pronounced by her husband – Rizwan Ahmad on 10.10.2015, wherein he affirmed: “…in the presence of witnesses saying that I give ‘talak, talak, talak’, hence like this I divorce from you from my wife.” It was her contention, that such a divorce which abruptly, unilaterally and irrevocably terminates the ties of matrimony, purportedly under Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 be declared unconstitutional. And arguments put forth from her side to declare it unconstitutional were:

  1. Talaq-e-biddat, pronounced is not valid as it is not a part of Shariat.
  2. This practice of triple talaq is violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens of India under article 14, 15 and 21 of Indian constitution.
  3. It was also submitted that practice of triple talaq was not sacrosanct to the tenets of Muslim religion as it has already been denounced internationally.

From the arguments put forward by the advocate of Shayara Bano one can see that not only he gave constitutional reasons for declaring the practice violative of fundamental rights but also he was able to give religious as well international viewpoint against this inhuman practice.

Now all the eyes were on supreme court that whether the court will follow its old traditional course or take a new route, which will come in the history of supreme court as a historic and landmark judgement – and Yes, this time supreme court changed its course and held that NO BODY OF LAW CAN CLAIM A HIGHER AUTHORITY THAN THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIAsurely a landmark judgement.

One more uniqueness of the case was the bench of judges that headed the case and the various statements given by them. There were five judges of five faiths Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Judges of five faiths heading a case where Muslim personal law was in question and verdict of declaring that practice as unconstitutional just shows how secular, impartial and beautifully extraordinary our Indian judiciary is, and Nemo est supra leges (NO ONE IS ABOVE LAW); not even religion.

If we look at the statements of various judges of the bench it clearly shows there was unity in disregarding the 1400-year-old talaq practice. Out of the five judges, three were totally in agreement to declare it unconstitutional like Justice Kurien Joseph said: “What is held bad in the Holy Quran cannot be good in Shariat, and in that sense, what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.” “There cannot be any Constitutional protection to such a practice” whereas former Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer deferred and 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. They were of the view that parliament should bring a law to end the practice.

Regarding the government’s view in the judgement, the government as well as opposition party has appreciated the verdict of the apex court and have agreed to the fact that legislature will bring a law to end the practice.

There is a great significance of this judgement for Muslim women and a great victory for them.  They have won the first and most important battle as triple talaq was a nightmare for Muslim women, and by declaring triple talaq as unconstitutional, the court has put a saddle on an unruly horse. The judgement of the Supreme Court has clothed her with dignity and strength.

KUDOS to women like Shayra Bano and others who have the courage and strength to come forward, and raise their voice against injustice, and were determined to get justice. It is truly said that there is no force more powerful than a woman’s determination to rise. For several decades she was suppressed, tortured in the hot water of patriarchal arbitrariness, but nobody knew she is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water and finally she fought back.

Now, what is to be seen is how far this fight goes? What is the next step? Is Uniform civil code the next step? All these questions remain unanswered. Nevertheless, until that time, let us just celebrate this first victory.

Talaq, Talaq, and Talaq is NO, NO, AND NO.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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DEEKSHA KATHAYAT

Deeksha Kathayat is currently pursuing BLS LLB (third-year) from Dr. D. Y. Patil College of Law. An enthusiast debater and avid mooter, she’s into occasions where she can express her views on various issues. She believes that we realize the importance of our voice only when we are silenced. An aspiring bureaucrat, she describes herself as Unstoppable, Unconstrained, and Zealous.

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