New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine the legality of triple talaq by entertaining a Muslim woman’s petition that this mode of divorce be declared unconstitutional as it allowed Muslim men to treat women like “chattel”.
“Muslim women have been given talaq over Skype, Facebook and even text messages. There is no protection against such arbitrary divorce. They have their hands tied while the guillotine of divorce dangles perpetually ready to drop at the whims of their husbands who enjoy undisputed power,” Shayara Bano’s petition said.
Uttarakhand-based Shayara Bano, who was divorced through triple talaq after 13 years of marriage, said in her plea that “such discrimination and inequality expressed in the form of unilateral triple talaq is abominable.”
Her petition was taken up on Monday along with the suo motu proceedings initiated by the apex court to examine the need to protect Muslim women.
Shayara’s counsel Amit Singh Chadha informed a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit that last year, a high-level committee appointed by the UPA government had submitted a report to the ministry of women and child development on the subject ‘Women and the law: An assessment of family laws with focus on laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance and succession’.
The committee recommended a ban on various practices that are purportedly Islamic but require reform, including talaq-e-bidat (unilateral triple talaq) and polygamy, he said.
The bench asked additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta to file the Centre’s response to Shayara’s petition along with a copy of the report within six weeks. It also asked National Commission for Women’s counsel Aparna Bhat to file response. Interestingly, the court also sought Shayara’s ex-husband’s response.
The court’s decision indicates its inclination to examine the legality of triple talaq in the face of strong opposition from All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat-e-Ulema. Both had said Muslim personal law was Quran-based and not enacted by the legislature and hence was beyond the ambit of judicial scrutiny.
Shayara also challenged the practice of polygamy and said it was as evil a practice as the banned Sati system. “Religious officers and priests like imams and maulvis who propagate, support and authorise practices like triple talaq and polygamy are grossly misusing their position, influence and power to subject Muslim women to such gross practices which treat them as chattels, thereby violating their right to equality, right to life and right to profess religion,” her petition said.
She questioned the validity of triple talaq and polygamy while narrating her own experience. “The practice of triple talaq practically treats women like chattel… many Islamic nations including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq have banned or restricted such practice but it continues to vex Indian society in general and Muslim women like the petitioner in particular,” Shayara said.