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Muslim board says woman can opt out of triple talaq, SC reserves order

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 18-05-2017
India's Supreme Court building in New Delhi © Tsering Topgyal/AP Photo India's Supreme Court building in New Delhi

A powerful Muslim body defending triple talaq told the Supreme Court on Thursday it was willing to ask all qazis in the country to give brides the option of keeping the controversial divorce practice out of their marriage contract.

A five-judge constitution bench which is hearing a bunch of petitions demanding an end to the controversial custom reserved the order in the case.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) conciliatory position came in response to a suggestion by the court that the board issue an advisory of binding nature to the qazis solemnising marriages that the husband would not end the marriage by uttering the word triple talaq thrice in one go.

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The board said the advisory would be issued within a week. As the board is not a statutory body, its advice is not binding. 

On the last day of hearing, the board again questioned the Centre, which has backed the petitioner, saying the government should bring in a law and not take the legal route to scrap the divorce practice.

“The government talks about constitutional morality and is not following the Constitution,” its counsel Kapil Sibal said. The constitution provided for a procedure to bring in a law for a social reform. The court could then “test that law to infer whether it violates the constitution right to profess one’s religion”, he said.

The court, which wrapped up the hearing in record six days, had a query for the Muslim law board. The board had accepted instant triple talaq was sinful then how can it be practised?

“Lots of sinful things are practised by society and they are protected by law,” Sibal said.

The court had on Thursday asked the board if it was possible to give a woman a choice to say no to triple talaq. “Can a woman be given an option to say no to triple talaq at the time of execution of nikahnama?” it had said, referring to the Islamic marriage contract. 

A nikhnama is prenuptial agreement that spells out the rights and responsibilities of the groom and the bride.

Triple talaq allows Sunni Muslim men to end a marriage by uttering the word talaq (I divorce you) thrice in quick succession.

The petitioners and the government want the practice scrapped, saying it was unconstitutional, against gender justice and was biased in favour of men.

The Muslim law board defended the practice, saying it was a matter of faith just like Ram Lalla’s birthplace, referring to the long-pending dispute over building a temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya, which Hindus believe is his birth place.

The government has told the court it would bring a matrimony law for Mulsim if it were to strike down triple talaq.

If the government brings in a new law it could mean the start of a process to overhaul Muslim personal laws in India that are now guided by a 1937 Sharia code. India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance.

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