The issue of 'triple talaq' has been an emotive issue which has fueled much religious tension for several decades, and has been hotly debated by both Hindu and Muslim hardliners. With the Supreme Court issuing notice to the central government over a plea challenging the practice of triple talaq, the issue is back in the limelight.
Here is a brief history of the issue-
- As noted by Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer in an article on the website Counter Currents, the British government established its own courts of law after it seized power from the Mughals. In most of these courts, there were either British or non-Muslim judges who heard the cases. These judges consulted the English translation of Hidayah, written by a Hanafi scholar. The judgments delivered in these cases became precedents and gradually formed what is now known as Muslim personal law. Over the years, 'triple talaq' — under which a husband can unilaterlly divorce his wife merely by uttering the word 'talaq' thrice — been cited as representational of how Muslim personal law is unfair to women.
-Soon after independence, the Constituent Assembly dealt with the tricky question of the desirability of a uniform civil code for different religious communities. In 1948, while Dr B R Ambedkar defended the inclusion of the uniform civil code in the directive principles (which are non-binding), he opposed introducing such a code by force, saying that it would be 'mad' to do so by 'provoking Muslims,' as reported by The Hindu. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the precursor to the BJP also favoured a uniform civil code for both Hindus and Muslims. However, the organisation also sought a ban on cow slaughter and ending the special status for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which led to questions over whether its demands were motivated by an agenda of Hindu domination.
-The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which claims to represent the demands of the Muslim community in India, says on its website: 'These laws of Muslims are an integral and inseparable part of their religion which are based on the guidance given by the Prophet under divine inspiration. Therefore the issue of their Personal Law is not merely a cultural issue or an issue of customary practices for the Muslims rather it is an issue which concerns the safeguarding and conservation of their religion which burdens them with grave responsibilities and they are, as a result, very sensitive about it.'
-However, several voices from within the Muslim community have called for reforms in Muslim personal law, including the provision of triple talaq. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in November last year called for a ban on the “triple talaq” divorce system, saying it was un-Islamic and outlawed in several Muslim countries. “The Quran gives rights to Muslim women during marriage and does not recognise triple talaq,” the group said in a resolution passed at its ninth annual convention. In a letter addressed to PM Modi, the organisation said that from the Shah Bano case in 1985, Muslim women had never been heard in matters concerning their lives "thanks to the politics in our country. "Certain orthodox and patriarchal males have dominated the debate on rights of Muslim women and have stone-walled any attempt towards reform in Muslim personal law," the organisation has said.
-This is not the first time that the issue of triple talaq has been dealt with by the Supreme Court. In December last year, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in a petition seeking the implementation of a uniform civil code, as reported by The Times of India. The court, however, had then said that it could examine the legality of triple talaq if a woman approaches the court questioning the validity of the divorce procedure. The petition in response to which the court has now issued notices has been filed by a woman who has alleged that she was subjected to cruelty and dowry demands by her husband. The woman, Shayara Bano has contended that such practices 'have reduced women to mere chattels, and that such practices do not have a place in progressive society'.
With inputs from IANS