Calling it ‘unconstitutional’, Supreme Court strikes down triple talaq

Muslim women have welcomed the 3:2 majority verdict.

 |  4-minute read |   22-08-2017
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This is a big victory for gender rights and the enshrinement of the Constitution over religious laws. In a landmark verdict, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court today (August 22) has held that the practice of instant triple talaq (or talaq-e-biddat) is unconstitutional and violative of articles 14 and 15.

This was a split verdict, with the Bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, along with Justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Uday Umesh Lalit and Abdul Nazeer. The 3:2 split in the verdict came as CJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer upheld the practice, while recommending that Parliament makes laws in six months on this issue, while Justices Nariman, Lalit and Joseph found it null and void under the Constitution.

Justices Nariman and Lalit held that triple talaq was unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, which deal with the Right to equality. Justice Joseph said that the practice goes “against the basic tenets of the Quran and against Shariat”, and is therefore invalid.

CJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer, however, observed that triple talaq was a 1000-year-old practice among Sunni Muslims, and cannot be struck down, unless Parliament frames a law looking at the issue.

 

The 3:2 verdict, however, invalidated triple talaq.

This high-profile case has seen a logical culmination, but had created much debate in the public sphere. A batch of petitioners, mostly Muslim women led by Shayara Bano, Aafreen Rahman, Bebak Collective, had challenged the constitutionality of triple talaq, and their counsels, including senior advocates Indira Jaising, Anand Grover had fought tooth and nail to drive home the points regarding the extremely discriminatory nature of the practice.

 

The central government, which sided with the Muslim women petitioners, was represented by former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta.

On the other hand, counsels representing the challengers, particularly the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Ram Jethmalani and others, had tried persuading the court along the lines that only Parliament can enact a law to amend the issue, and the court shouldn’t intervene into matters of faith.

Why the verdict is historic?

Senior counsel for the petitioners Indira Jaising had called triple talaq to be an “extrajudicial, unilateral act that’s civil death for a Muslim woman”. Today, Jaising’s words and the women stand vindicated.

Also read: How the triple talaq case became an excuse for Muslim-bashing

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