It is not always that a Supreme Court verdict attracts such unprecedented attention and evokes unparalleled interest as in the case of the triple talaq judgment. The reason is simple. It has set right centuries-old injustice to Muslim women. It has set aside the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives instantly pronouncing talaq thrice as it is theologically bad, legally untenable and constitutionally an aberration. Now the hapless Muslim women, who were at the mercy of their unscrupulous husbands, will not be thrown out of their wedlock according to the latter’s whims and fancies. The verdict is an unequivocal reiteration of equality of men and women in the eye of law.
Three No’s from three judges formed the majority judgment which set aside the practice holding it arbitrary, unreasonable, contrary to the rule of law, and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality before law. It is equally evident in the eye of law that what is arbitrary is discriminatory too – discriminatory to the Muslim women. The apex court struck down triple talaq as it is also on the wrong side of the Quran. It has no sanction of the Holy book. As Justice Kurian Joseph painstakingly elaborated, triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Quran and consequently it violates Shariat which is the basis of Muslim Personal Law.
The judges also countered the view that triple talaq is a practice continued for centuries and hence it has to be kept alive. The judges have turned down this argument stating that “merely because a practice has continued for long, that by itself cannot make it valid if it has been expressly declared to be impermissible.” One must also bear in mind that most of the Islamic countries have declared triple talaq un-Islamic and hence illegal while a section of Muslims in a secular country wants its perpetuation for all the wrong reasons.
It is not the first time that courts have declared triple talaq illegal. The apex court in a similar case had held that the practice lacked legal sanctity. The Allahabad High Court had recently held it unconstitutional. It is worth recalling what Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, while he was a Judge in Kerala High Court, stated in one of his judgments: “It is a popular fallacy that a Muslim male enjoys, under the Quranic law, unbridled authority to liquidate the marriage.”
It is equally interesting to note that even the minority judgment given by Chief Justice J. S. Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer held that triple talaq should go but it should be done through a law made by Parliament, and not by the court. They argued that since the practice is a component of Muslim Personal Law it has the protection of Article 25 of the Constitution.
Hopefully the judgment will put an end to a practice that violates international human rights law and flies in the face of Indian Constitution. It will bring to an end the contentious custom of divorcing Muslim women over letters, SMSes, phone calls and e-mails.(Published on 28th August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 35)