SC sets aside triple talaq, declares it unconstitutional

New Delhi, August 22

Muslim men can no longer pronounce instant triple talaq as the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared the age-old practice unconstitutional on the ground that it was arbitrary and violated right to equality of Muslim women.A five-judge Constitution Bench set aside the age-old practice by a majority of 3:2, holding it was “retrograde” and unworthy of protection.There were three verdicts, one each pronounced by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton F Nariman.)The majority verdicts were pronounced by Justice Nariman and Justice Joseph. Justice Lalit agreed with Justice Nariman’s findings on the contentious issue.Justice Nariman’s verdict also held that Muslim Marriage Dissolution Act, 1937, was a ‘law’ within the meaning of Article 13 of the Constitution and, hence, it can’t violate fundamental rights of Muslim women.’

Accordingly, Justice Nariman and Justice Lalit declared Section 2 of the Act unconstitutional in so far as it sought to enforce triple talaq.Justice Narimanon said if someone approached it for protection of fundamental rights, the court can’t turn its back to them.The CJI was in minority with Justice S Abdul Nazeer agreeing with him. They held triple talaq to be a part of Muslim Personal Law practise for 1,400 years.However, noting that the Muslim law has been reformed the world over, the CJI restrained Muslim husbands from pronouncing triple talaq.Pointing out that personal laws of other communities in India have been reformed by the Legislature, the CJI and Justice Nazeer asked the Government to come up with a law on the issue within six months.Justice Joseph, heavily relied on The Quran and other Islamic scriptures and said what is sinful in religion can’t be lawful under personal law. “Islam can’t be anti-Quran,” he said declaring triple talaq unconstitutional.In his verdict, the CJI also referred to Article 44 of the Constitution, which talks about the state’s responsibility to enact a Uniform Civil Code for all citizens.Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who had represented the government during the hearing before the Constitution Bench, welcomed the verdict.”It will go a long way in ensuring Justice to Muslim women. It was a discriminatory practice. The Supreme Court has done the right this by not waiting for Parliament,” Rohatgi told reporters.All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board counsel Chandra Rajan said: “It’s a historic verdict for India, particularly, Muslim women who have been discriminated against for centuries.”The ruling came on petitions challenging the practice of triple talaq on the ground that it violated Muslim women’s right to equality, right to non-discrimination and right to live with human dignity.The top court had on May 18 reserved its verdict on the contentious issue after six days of marathon arguments.The Centre had supported the petitioners contending that fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination of Muslim women must take precedence over personal laws as right to religion was an inferior right under the Constitution. Arguing for the Centre, then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had, however, sought to allay the fears of the Muslim community by saying that it was a gender issue and not a majority versus minority issue.In what may be considered a climb-down from its stated position in favour of instantaneous triple talaq, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had agreed before the Supreme Court to ask all kazis to advise the husbands shun triple talaq, except under compelling circumstances.