India's top court strikes down Muslim divorce law in victory for women

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla has welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on Triple Talaq saying it will provide Muslim women security.

Quoting various reports including one by the women's wing of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Dr Ahmed said the rate of divorce among Muslims was low as compared to other communities and that the issue of triple talaq was being projected in wrong light.

In the Shah Bano case, the legislature overrode the Supreme Court's verdict that a Muslim ex-husband would have to make continued maintenance payments to his divorced wife in addition to maintenance for a three-month iddat period after divorce required under the Islamic law. It was a fight for the dignity of millions of Muslim women in India. "We need to understand that as many as 22 countries either regulated, or abolished or laid down strict pre-conditions for its [triple talaq's] exercise". Striking down a law made by a legislature or a government action is a declaration of the court that the laws are incompatible with the Constitution in some way.

Religious institutions in India have been allowed to tackle matters related to marriage, divorce, and property.

"It's a victory for fearless Muslim women who have waged a battle against it for years", Azmi tweeted yesterday after the verdict came out.

Amongst the majority of three, two of the judges argued that instant triple talaq violated the fundamental right to equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

Justice Rohinton Nariman's judgement (also on behalf of Justice UU Lalit) is effectively the majority judgement since Justice Kurien Joseph agrees with him to the extent of holding that the practice of talaq-e-biddat should not be enforced by courts.

In a 3-2 majority verdict, the court called the practice "un-Islamic".

Modi hailed the judgment as "historic". While the verdict wouldn't have come if Congress was in power, he believes that the BJP and its sister organisations like the Sangh Parivar also support this ban not because they have any love lost for hapless Muslim women but because they see it as a victory for the kind of majoritarianism they espouse, an example of Hindus showing Muslims their place as second-class citizens in India.

But the RSS, which has been endeavouring for a Uniform Civil Code, says a new law is imperative.

"The Supreme Court has a right to interfere in the personal space and they have done so", said Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development.

On the other hand, forty-year-old Maleka Begum is toiling day in and out to raise her three kids after being cheated by her husband.

The Act was viewed as discriminatory as it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which was granted to women of other faiths under secular law.

India's civil codes are created to protect the independence of religious communities.

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