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If discriminatory Triple Talaq struck down, then new Divorce Law will come, Centre tells Supreme Court

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Muslim women in India are vulnerable and insecure due to the community's practice that lets Muslim men divorce their wives by saying the word "talaq (divorce) " according to women rights campaigners. (Photo: A. Pasricha/VOA)

New Delhi, May 15, 2017: The Central government on Monday told the Supreme Court that if the latter invalidates the men-centric triple talaq that is discriminatory to Muslim women, then it would bring a new divorce law that would be fair and equal to both men and women in the community.

As Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi argued against triple talaq and stressed the need to strike it down, the five judges constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar asked him if this is done, then what will happen to Muslim men who went to end their marriage.

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“If we accept that giving unfettered rights to a husband is bad and we strike down triple talaq, then where will Muslim men go for divorce,” asked Justice Uday Umesh Lalit who, along with the CJI, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer are on the constitution bench.

Without losing a moment, Rohatgi told the bench that if they strike down the all three – triple talaq, Nikah Halala and polygamy, then the government will bring a new law.

At this, Chief Justice Khehar said that the top court was not just the “guardian to the Constitution but also that of the Minorities Act.”

At the outset of the hearing, the Attorney General urged the court to examine not just the validity of the triple talaq vis-a-vis the Constitution but also that of the Nikah Halal and polygamy.

Citing the limited time that is available, the bench said that as of now it would focus on the validity of triple talaq, leaving other two issues for the future.

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Appearing for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the bench that the “issue is not talaq, the issue is patriarchy” or a state of society which is inherently discriminatory of this or that religion.

Describing the issue as “highly complex” which can’t be resolved easily, he referred to Hindu Code under which customs are still protected, noting that even under 2006 Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, a father can bequeath his entire property to his son without giving anything to his daughter.

Noting that the Constitutions protects personal laws and all patriarchal societies are discriminatory, Sibal said that all laws that applies to Hindus, Muslims, and other religions must be tested on the grounds of discrimination.

Representing the government, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that Islamic practices as practised in India were not “pure Islam” but an “anglicised” form of the religion. (IANS)

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Ban ‘Triple Talaq’: India Criminalizes Centuries-Old Practice of Sudden Divorce Among Muslims

The bill sets a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years for men convicted of using the practice

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FILE - Indian Muslims protest against the government approving an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down a Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce in Mumbai, India, Sept. 19, 2018. VOA

India’s parliament has passed a measure to criminalize the centuries-old practice of instant divorce among Muslims and punish men with jail terms if they defy a ban on what is known as “triple talaq.”

The government said a law was necessary because there have been instances of Muslim men continuing to terminate marriages by repeating the Arabic word “talaq” three times, although the practice was outlawed by India’s Supreme Court in 2017.

The bill sets a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years for men convicted of using the practice. It will become law as soon as the president signs it. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “an archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbins of history,” and it “corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women.”

The measure, called the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, was passed in the upper house of parliament amid protests from the main opposition Congress party,  which opposed setting a prison term for offenders and wanted further scrutiny of the bill.

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Indian Muslims stand outside Parliament House in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 26, 2019. VOA

Critics of the law say it is a harsh measure that’s open to misuse and is being used by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to target Muslims. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defended the bill, saying it was necessary to protect the dignity and honor of Muslim women and ensure gender justice.

The bill’s passage is seen as a major victory for Modi’s government, which failed to pass it during Modi’s first term in office. The bill had been passed by the lower house last week, but all eyes were on Tuesday’s vote because the government does not have a majority in the Upper House. It passed 99 to 84.

The practice of “triple talaq” has long been banned in several Muslim countries like Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan but continued in India.

Zakia Soman, a cofounder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) organization, which was at the forefront of the legal battle to scrap “triple talaq,” welcomed passage of the bill. “It will not change our lives overnight, but it would give strength to the movement for justice for Muslim women,” according to Soman. She said “it was a moment to rejoice.”

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If we don’t cry now, Triple Talaq, and such other vices, might go digital, and burn millions of households. VOA

Women rights activists had cited many cases where men had divorced women via letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp and Skype by uttering or writing the three words. They said what was practiced in India was a misinterpretation of Islamic law.

Conservative Muslim clerics, however, had staunchly opposed efforts to scrap “triple talaq,” calling it a religious issue that should not be interfered with. Although India’s constitution guarantees equality, it allows matters such as marriage, divorce and alimony to be governed by religious laws.

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Tahir Mahmood, an expert on Islamic law, said he hoped the law would act as a deterrent on Muslim men divorcing wives in an arbitrary manner. He said the practice should not have been made a criminal offense, but he pointed out that religious leaders of the community had failed to do anything to curb the practice.

Some scholars of Sharia law call “triple talaq” a travesty of divorce as envisaged in the Quran. They say the word has to be pronounced over three months and accompanied by efforts at reconciliation. (VOA)