NEW DELHI – The government of India opposed the practice of triple talaq in the Supreme Court on October 7 saying it can’t be regarded as an essential part of religion. Triple talaq is a procedure followed by a Muslim to divorce his wife by uttering the word “talaq” thrice.

This method is banned in many countries including many Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but is prevalent and misused in India.

“Gender equality and dignity of women are non-negotiable”, said the Indian government in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court. “Religious practices cannot be an impediment to rights and aspirations of individual woman irrespective of religion she practices,” the government said.

The Muslim law board of country claimed that triple talaq is a ‘personal law’ and hence cannot be modified.
The government negated the claim of the Muslim law board and said: “practices of triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala cannot be regarded as essential part of religion and hence get no protection under fundamental right to religion.”

It added that no reform had happened in the last 65 years and that women from the Muslim community remained extremely vulnerable.

The government emphasised that triple talaq and polygamy impacted a woman’s status and her right to live with confidence and dignity, and added that they were not protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which secures immunity to practices essential or integral to the religion.

“Secularism being a hallmark of Indian democracy, no part of its citizenry ought to be denied access to fundamental rights,” the government ensures.

Mufti Abu Zafar Nomani Al-Qasmi, Bareilly General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a leading organisation of the Deobandi sect, said: “We stand with all India Muslim Personal Law Board The Centre has no right to interfere with Islamic law.”

“According to Islamic law, triple talaq is legal. Even if a few countries have banned it, we can’t do so considering the faith of the community in Islamic law,” said Mufti Mohd Mian Qasmi, who runs a Deobandi madrassa in Bareilly.

The law panel of India has sought public views on the subject to revise and reform older laws, saying the aim is to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws.

The Commission has asked whether the existing personal laws and customary practices need codification and whether it would benefit people.

Should the practice of triple talaq be abolished, or retained with suitable amendments; and whether a uniform civil code should be optional are among 16 queries by the commission.

– Bandana Singh, Correspondent (Asia: South)