Society and Culture

Lessons in triple talaq ruling

In a landmark 3-2 judgment last week, Indian Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional ‘triple talaq’ — the practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly.

Aug 31, 2017
In a landmark 3-2 judgment last week, Indian Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional ‘triple talaq’ — the practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly.
 
Five Muslim women divorced this way and two rights groups filed these cases that went on to form a breakthrough precedent for Muslim women in India. Rights campaigners across India have hailed the judgment as a historic win and the beginning of better days for Muslim women.
 
The majority opinion was that it was “manifestly arbitrary” to allow a man to “break down (a) marriage whimsically and capriciously”. While the dissenting judges claimed that personal law could not be regulated by a constitutional court of law and recommended that Parliament legislate on the issue.
 
While a little late to hop on the train of progressive legal reforms — Pakistan had banned the practice in 1961 and following its dismemberment the newly-formed state of Bangladesh retained the ban — the top court in India has, nonetheless, sent a strong message to the Muslim clerics and their institutions like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
 
So far, the Board had adopted a position where, on the one hand, it denounced the practice of triple talaq as reprehensible and, on the other, declared that it was not an issue for the courts and the government to interfere in. As the issue stands now, the court hasn’t just interfered but has also taken charge of the matter, sending out a message of support to Muslim women.
 
This ruling definitely comes as a positive and victorious event for progressive activists in India in general and Indian Muslim women in particular. However, the fact remains that in matters pertaining to personal law court rulings and progressive legislations alone are not enough to ensure relief to affected groups. For that, the implementation of these rulings and reforms at the grassroots level needs to be ensured. And while executive agencies can take the lead on enforcement of progressive rulings, concomitant efforts are needed to inculcate the desire for change at the community level. In close-knit minority communities, like Muslims in India, who value the word of religious scholars over the word of law, it is important that the initiative comes from within the community as well.
 
Daily Times, August 31, 2017

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