NEW DELHI: India’s higher judiciary on Thursday decided to sit through its annual summer vacation (May 11 to July 3) to hear three important cases: Triple Talaq, citizenship for children of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, and alleged privacy violation by WhatsApp.
Three constitutional benches will hear these cases every day, be it Saturday, Sunday or a holiday.
While announcing this decision, chief justice of India J S Khehar bulldozed the reservations expressed by attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi on working through the summer holidays. "Last year, I wrote judgments during the whole vacation. If you do not want to work together with us, I will be very happy enjoying my vacation but then do not tell us so many years have passed and the matter has not been heard," he said.
The chief justice and his brother judge on the bench D Y Chandrachud said the petitions on trhe Muslim practices of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy involve religious sentiments and therefore required careful and immediate attention of the court.
In the normal course, a vacation bench sits during the summer holidays to hear cases that require urgent hearing. But in this case, the chief justice decided that with more than 60,000 cases pending in the apex court, a little urgency was in order.
However, this won’t be the first time that the top court has sat through a vacation. In 2015, a Constitution bench heard the appeals challenging the constitutionality of the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
The Constitution bench will adjudicate on the Muslim practice of triple talaaq in which a man is allowed to divorce his wife by uttering ‘talaaq’ three times in one go, sometimes even on the phone or by a text message.
Nikah halala is a practice under which a man cannot remarry his former wife without her having to first marry another man, consummate the marriage, get divorced, observe a separation period called 'iddat' and then marry her husband again.
Influential Muslim organisations like the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have opposed the court's adjudication of these matters, maintaining that these practices stem from the Quran and are not justiciable.
In an affidavit filed in the top court early this week, AIMPLB said these issues were matters to be dealt with by the legislature. The apex court has said previously that it would only hear issues pertaining to the legal aspects of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy among Muslims but not the question of whether divorce under Muslim law needs to be supervised by the courts.
The Triple Talaq issue will be heard on May 11 and 12, and the judges offered to sit on May 13 and 14 (Saturday and Sunday) and through the next week thereafter.
If we will not decide it now, it will not happen for years and decades.
-- Justice J S Khehar, chief justice of India