Supreme Court has declared Triple Talaq or Talaq-E-Biddat unconstitutional and unessential to Islam.
Three out of five in the division bench has ruled in favor of striking down the practice. According to the bench, this was violating Article 14 and henceforth unconstitutional. In light of this historical verdict, lets dive in deep into the details and see what this could actually mean for the society.
What is Triple Talaq or Talaq-e-biddat
As per Islamic law, there are three ways a divorce can happen – Talaq, Khula and Mubaraat. Talaq is for the husband, Khula is for the wife and Mubaraat is when the divorce happens with mutual consent.
Talaq, by itself, is also of three kinds – ‘talaq-e-ahsan’, ‘talaq-e-hasan’ and ‘talaq-e-biddat’. While ‘talaq-e-ahsan’ and ‘talaq-e-hasan’ is considered ‘the most proper’ and ‘the proper’ form of divorce in Islam, ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is the infamous triple talaq and is widely considered as a ‘sinful form of divorce’ even where it is recognized.
In ‘talaq-e-biddat’, the husband can instantly divorce his wife by a ‘definitive pronouncement of talaq like “I talaq you irrevocably”‘ or simultaneously saying ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’. Hence this talaq got the name triple talaq. While the other two types are revocable to some degree, triple talaq is irrevocable from the instant it has been uttered.
It is immaterial to point out how wrong this practice is. It is astonishing how arbitrarily the marital tie ‘can be broken capriciously and whimsically by a Muslim man’. Moreover, there is no definitive procedure attached to this. There are incidents and triple talaq has been delivered over mail, SMS and Facebook messenger. It was an easy way out for men while being a point of dread and shame for victim women. It is also to be noted that there is no equivalent practice or rule in favour of women. ‘Khula” is the only way a Muslim women can initiate divorce and that is done by returning the ‘Mehr’ amount paid by the groom during the ‘nikaah’ or wedding. But this type of divorce is completely controlled by the priests, leaving little power in the women’s hand.
Everything about this verdict is incomplete without mentioning the fight and struggle of five brave women who were at the receiving end of this derogatory practice. Although the present case was initiated suo motu by the court, it was Shayara Bano who filed the original petition. Her petition was followed by petitions from Aafreen Rehman, Gulshan Parveen, Israt Jahan and Atiya Sabri (source). This historic verdict is indeed a triumphant culmination of the pain they endured and the constant struggle they went through.
The main debate point of the case was whether the practice of triple talaq, being the regressive and oppressive rule that it is, is violating the equality of women against men. The opposition told the court that triple talaq is a matter faith and should be considered under Article 25 of Indian constitution which ensures freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court (SC), in the verdict, has mentioned in details that how the Triple Talaq is not “in conformity with the unambiguous edicts of the Quran”.
The verdict sends out a clear message that personal law cannot hold any privilege over fundamental rights of a citizen. It is important to note that the resolution is so simple that the SC did not have to mention the matter of gender equality in the final verdict. According to Justice Nariman, since the practise has been held arbitrary, there is really no need to go into the matter of discrimination. The Hindu correctly observes – “The court deserves commendation for undoing the gender injustice implicit in the practice so effortlessly, within constitutional parameters as well as the Islamic canon.”
Henceforth, the SC, in the final declaration of the triple talaq verdict, has issued an injunction of six months on Muslim husbands declaring instant talaq on their wives. This injunction will continue if the legislature decides to do away with the practice altogether.
What does it Mean?
There is no doubt that the verdict is historic and in line with the collective pleading of many Muslim women suffering in various degrees due to the triple talaq practice. The SC has also observed and documented this in the verdict. “There is seemingly an overwhelming majority of Muslim-women, demanding that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ which is sinful in theology, be declared as impermissible in law.” But as evidently seen the original triple talaq verdict, the SC has not actually abolished the practice altogether but in turn relied on the legislature and government to establish the law in this regard.
The government has six months to establish the law. Will they do it? They seemed to indicate that “there is no need for a new law” and an “advisory” will be issued to all states so that the SC order is upheld. This begs the question about the actual goodwill of the authorities. Muslim women will never get real justice and freedom from the atrocities of triple talaq unless the law holds true to their cause. It seems the government never really cared about that and only went for the headlines.
Another aspect is about upholding. Are we thinking the battle has been won with the verdict? I don’t think so. We have laws against rape. Have it stopped the offenders? No. The same question is applicable here to. How any women would actually come forward after they have been divorced through triple talaq? The social stigma of being a divorced women is unfortunately so prevalent in the society, I am afraid that the number will be very less.
It is up to us, the society, to encourage these women. It is up to us to change our mentality about divorce. There is really no point for two people to keep dragging a relationship just for the sake of relationship. There is no justification to keep a women inside an abusive relationship. We have created society for our mutual well-being, not to maintain some beautiful facade over an oppressive and suffocating set of lives.
That’s why it really good to see women from different parts of the society welcoming this verdict openly. Zeenat Sheikh, a resident from Mumbai and a victim of triple talaq, says, “This is a very good verdict, and I believe it should be applicable to old cases like mine as well” (source). While Gausiya, another victim and a doctor, demanded punishment for the men who uttered triple talaq. “Why should these men go scot-free? I will find out from my lawyer if it is possible to file a case against my husband, now that the Supreme Court has made triple talaq illegal.” (source) More and more women like them are coming forward.
In the end, it is important to point out that the verdict is indeed historic. Hopefully it has started a movement against all the other regressive and oppressive practices that are persisting today in the name of religion and faith. Wishing to write a few articles like this very soon. Till then, the score is-
1-0! And I hope to keep a clean-sheet.