THE five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down instant triple talaq as illegal and violative of the rights of Muslim women. This majority verdict by 3 to 2 is a victory for Muslim women who have suffered under the arbitrary use of talaq-e-bidat which is instant talaq.
Amongst the majority of three, two of the judges have argued that instant triple talaq is violative of the fundamental right to equality enshrined in Article 14 of the constitution, while the third judge has said it is illegal as it is not sanctioned by the Quran and Islamic religious practice. By this verdict, the struggle for equal rights for women in the Muslim community and for women in general has taken a step forward.
The stance of the two judges in the minority that personal law is protected under the constitution and therefore immune to the equality test is regressive and contrary to the secular principle.
The BJP is trying to utilise the arguments against triple talaq as grounds for imposing a uniform civil code. This is a deliberate misreading of the verdict. The majority judgment was clear that it is only addressing talaq-e-bidat and not all forms of talaq under Muslim personal law. The court did not accept the arguments of the attorney general representing the central government to widen the scope of the court intervention to other aspects of divorce under Muslim personal law.
What is required is to work for equal rights for women within each religious community and to get reforms undertaken in this direction. Uniformity is not equality. And a uniform civil code is no guarantee for justice. The BJP government is not willing to have a law against honour killings. On the contrary under this government even secular laws applicable to all women are being sought to be diluted such as Section 498 A of the IPC.
The Supreme Court judgment will strengthen the resolve of women to continue to struggle for reform within their personal laws. This applies not only to Muslim women but to all women belonging to Hindu and other religious communities.
(August 23, 2017)