Triple talaq, a summary one-sided divorce procedure pronounced by the man without the woman having a say in the ending of a marriage contract, is by all yardsticks a discriminatory practice that needs repealing. It does not matter if it is seen as an article of faith by a handful of backers of coercive patriarchy. Several Muslim women’s organisations, women academics and those who have faced the brunt of it in their lives have for long been demanding the outlawing of this aberration that violates their basic rights, as has been done in many Muslim-majority nations. Ideally, a people’s representative body like Parliament should have stepped in with a law long ago.
The Muslim Personal Law Board, instead of getting into a turf war which can erode its control over the community, should have risen to the occasion and responded to the just demands from Muslim women in a positive, reformist spirit. In the absence of such an initiative, the present Constitutional Bench is the next best thing. It would have been preferable to see at least one woman judge on the panel though, not just an array of judges from all religions.
The apex court has rightly refused to take on board the suggestion of the government law officer who urged that polygamy and nikah halala too be clubbed with this and examined at one go—as if three wickets can be felled in one ball—without closing out those provisions of personal law from judicial scrutiny in perpetuity. Overall, there seems to be a convergence of views: The AIMPLB’s legal counsel too admits triple talaq is not desirable.
Perhaps no Indian ruler, not even the British governor generals, have escaped the urge of social reform.
The prime minister and his party admittedly do not depend on the support of Muslims, one of the reasons why they can take the risk of pushing through this reform, which preceding dispensations could never have. If repealing is followed up by legislation, it might generate lateral support within the community.