In what is being hailed as a historic judgment, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court today held the practice of ‘triple talaq’ as unconstitutional and against the basic tenets of Islam. In a 3:2 majority judgment, the apex court struck down the practice of instant divorce and said the arbitrary practice had no constitutional protection.
Justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Udey Umesh Lalit held that triple talaq is not integral to Islam, is banned in law and lacks approval of the Shariat.
However, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice S. Abdul Nazir, in a minority judgment, said triple talaq is integral to Islamic practices and enjoys constitutional protection and urged Parliament to pass a law to deal with the issue.
The CJI, however, injuncted Muslim men from pronouncing instant triple talaq for the next six months within which he implored the political parties to shed their difference and enact a law.
The five-judge bench, which has judges from major faiths practiced in India – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism, held the practice of granting divorce by uttering talaq three times as “illegal and sinful.”
"What is sinful under religion cannot be valid under law," they said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to hail the top court’s judgment.
“Judgment of the Hon'ble SC on Triple Talaq is historic. It grants equality to Muslim women and is a powerful measure for women empowerment,” he wrote.
The Supreme Court’s verdict comes two years after Shayara Bano from Uttarakhand approached it for justice after her husband of 15 years sent her a letter with the word ‘talaq’ written thrice. Petitions of four other women were tagged with Shayara Bano's plea.
The other petitioners included Ishrat Jahan, Gulshan Parween, Aafreen Rehman and Atiya Sabri. The Zakia Soman-led Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) was the sixth petitioner in the case.
Read the complete chronology of events leading to the SC striking down Triple Talaq here.
The judgment, though divided among the five judges, has evinced several reactions across the political and social spectrum.
Reacting to the judgment, petitioner Shayara Bano welcomed the top court’s decision and sought its quick implementation. “I welcome and support the judgment. This is a historic day for Muslim women,” she told news agency ANI.
“Understand the condition of women in Muslim society, accept the judgment and bring a law on it as soon as possible,” she said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also welcomed the judgment, with party president Amit Shah terming the judgment as a beginning of days of self-respect and freedom for Muslim women. “I welcome this verdict on behalf of this party. This is not anyone's win or loss. This is a beginning of days of self-respect and freedom for Muslim women,” he said.
“The decision will help crores of women in the country to live respectfully.”
The BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government also welcomed the judgement on triple talaq, saying it would strengthen the secular foundation of the country.
"The Supreme Court's decision is historic. India is a secular country, but its definition was distorted on religious grounds. Now, the SC has termed triple talaq as unconstitutional," state health minister and government spokesman Siddharth Nath Singh said.
"The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were of the view that discrimination should not be on the basis of gender and have advocated for gender equality," the minister said.
"The decision will strengthen the secular foundation of our country," he added.
The reaction has been similar from the principal opposition party Congress as well. “We hail the judgement, it protects personal laws and at the same time deprecates the practice of Triple Talaq,” said senior lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari welcomed the 3.2 verdict of SC striking down triple talaq. “It is a constructive, progressive decision that must be welcomed by all right thinkers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) will meet in Bhopal on September 10 to discuss the Supreme Court verdict striking down instant triple talaq and chalk out its strategy, it said on Tuesday.
“The Board has convened a meeting in Bhopal where we would examine the issue and plan the steps, if any, that will be taken next,” AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani told Hindustan Times.
The Board, which deals with Muslim personal laws in India, had opposed the move to ban triple talaq. In April this year, it issued an eight-point code of conduct to prevent the “misuse” of the practice and other Islamic laws (Shariah) to pre-empt an adverse verdict from the apex court.
It had also launched a signature campaign seeking non-interference in Muslim personal law. In the strongest ever censure against the practice, the Board had also called for “social boycott” of the person who divorces his wife by pronouncing triple talaq in one sitting.
Afaryab Jilani of the AIMPLB said the decision will be considered by the board. “We have respected Supreme Court's judgements in the past and today's judgement on triple talaq will also be considered by us. What will happen to those Muslim women who even after judgement will accept 'Talaq', all issues have to be addressed,” he said.
On the other hand, president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board Shaista Amber who has been waging a relentless battle against triple talaq welcomed the judgment.
“The Supreme Court decision is historic, it is the victory of women in the country. But more than that, it is the victory of Islam. We hope that triple talaq will be banned once and for all in times to come,” she said.
Muslim women, particularly those that have suffered due to this regressive practice, have welcomed the SC’s judgment. Following the court’s order, the practice has been banned for Muslim men for the next six months.
The onus of enacting a law to ban this practice completely now lies with the government and the Parliament.
What is Triple Talaq
Instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is the practice under which, when a man pronounces talaq thrice in a sitting, or through phone, or writes in a talaqnama or a text message, the divorce is considered immediate and irrevocable. This is contrary to the practice of “talaq-ul-sunnat”, considered ideal for dissolution of marriage contract among Muslims.
Under “talaq-ul-sunnat”, once the husband pronounces talaq, the wife has to observe a three-month iddat period covering three menstrual cycles during which the husband can arbitrate and re-conciliate with the wife.
In case of cohabitation between the couple, during these three months, the talaq is revoked. When the period of iddat expires and the husband does not revoke the talaq either expressly or by consummation, the talaq is irrevocable and final.
On the other hand, triple talaq closes doors for reconciliation even if the man wishes so later. The only way for the couple to go back to living together is through a nikah halala, which requires the woman to get remarried, consummate the second marriage, get divorced, observe the three-month iddat period and return to her husband.