(Note: It was long duel! At least now the Supreme Court has done it, What is beautiful was the five-member bench was from five important religions of the land. The judgement endorses, what is bad in religion is also bad in law. For the last 1400 years our Muslim sisters have suffered because of this despicable practice called Triple Talaq. For that very simple reason this judgement is a red letter day for all Muslim women. It is also significant that this verdict has come in the 71st year of India’s Independence. What is important is that the Modi Government should see that this law of gender equality among Muslims is vigorously implemented for the benefit of the women folk. james kottoor, editor).
It is indeed a historic day when the Preamble to the Constitution of India that solemnly pledges ‘justice’ to all and assures dignity to the individual has been upheld.
The five-member Supreme Court bench, comprising judges from five important faiths (we wish there was a woman judge too)—has struck down, in a majority verdict, the practice of instant triple talaq. It was a retrogressive, patriarchal form of divorce through pronouncement of the word talaq three times. That’s all, without requiring the concurrence of, or even prior intimation to, the woman being divorced.
It’s not a moment of celebration just for Shayara Bano of Haldwani, the main petitioner against this archaic practice, but also for the millions of Muslim women who have suffered due to this warped custom. While the court should be rightly feted for this landmark judgment, credit goes to Muslim women organisations who have struggled for its abolition for two decades, and other women’s bodies who supported them to create a public opinion.
The verdict is unequivocal—instant triple talaq is unconstitutional, illegal and has no endorsement in the Quran. It has thereby insulated the Muslim women from the pure play of male discretion, though how it plays out on the ground has to be seen. The retrospective aspect of this verdict will have to be worked out; one hopes Parliament will pool its resources to pass a legislation talking to stakeholders and say how best to restore equal rights to Muslim women.
With this, the courts have settled that if personal law is in conflict with the rights of women, the latter will prevail. Since this means that as far as divorce goes, the women of the land have uniform law, it’s time the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind read the writing on the wall. Their relevance will remain if they can seize the mood of the moment and help in implementing the verdict.
The AIMPLB must accept the verdict gracefully. The political parties too must welcome this as a much-needed course correction—to ensure Shayara Bano is not let down the way Shah Bano was.
The Supreme Court verdict on talaq certainly is a blessing for the entire Muslim women folk, who have been living under fear of being divorced anytime. There could not be a husband who would not have disagreed with his spouse at least once. Many stories of irrelevant small disagreements ending up in big fights and further in talaq were shared in public. This practice of smart divorce made the Muslim women life pitiful – no doubt! It should be noted that the Supreme Court was focusing on the Scriptural Interpretations rather than the social relevance or injustice it contains.
I’m of the opinion that women in other Semitic religions also suffer heavily. Remember that until recently, women in Christian families were not entitled for equal parental share. Even now, they haven’t grown to the level of realizing their eligibility for the same. The people at the helm of each religion should be held responsible for social injustice served to the faithful – in part or full. Their teachings are responsible for leading to all similar injustices. In Christianity, the faithful are allowed to think of Scriptural commands only through the ever-vibrating lens of Church rules. In the Fr. Robin rape case, I regretfully remember a ‘Shalom' editorial mentioning that the raped minor girl was more answerable in the Day of Judgment, for she should have realized that it was an anointed that she tempted to sin. This historic blunder was withdrawn the next day, but not all! I can trace many occasions in which the Church had to revisit its own foolish decisions. The faithful are trimmed to believe that all luxuries, the Church displays are necessities for its existence. The faithful are also made to believe that Church accounts are Holy and cannot be discussed in public. They believe that the proposed Church Act is a devil’s play.
Freedom that truth offers, that is what all believers in every religion are to yearn for. Need we wait for a full time Supreme Court ‘Religious Bench’ in India?
Joseph Mattappally (Asso. Editor – CCV)