It is an encouraging sign that 200 Muslim men, including the film personality Resul Pookutty, have lent support to the demand of 50,000 Muslim women that the triple talaq system of divorce be abolished. An organisation called Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a Muslim women’s advocacy group, had started the campaign against triple talaq, which the organisation said had no sanction in the Koran. The same organisation had earlier released a draft document for the codification of the Muslim Personal Law. Apart from triple talaq, the women want to end the practice of nikah halala, which says that couple divorced through triple talaq cannot remarry unless the woman concerned marries someone else and then gets divorced from her second husband. Hence the move is a positive sign because Muslim men and women have stepped into an area that was until now the preserve of only activists.
That there is a climate of opinion building up against triple talaq is undeniable. In May the Lucknow regional bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) had decreed that the declaration of ‘oral triple talaq by ex parte proceedings should not be given force by the government machinery or the courts because it was ‘contrary to the Constitutional ethos’. Also, a former Muslim woman legislator, Bader Sayeed, has asked the Supreme Court to bar clerics from validating triple talaq. Ms Sayeed, who was also a senior legal officer of the Tamil Nadu government, wants the court to lay down guidelines till a law is framed asking Muslims to seek divorce through courts. Regardless of whether triple talaq has the sanction of Islamic theology or not, one thing that is certain is that this practice is heavily stacked against poor Muslim women. Reports have come to light that men have sought talaq in this manner on the phone. This is is degrading to a woman’s dignity and honour. A woman in Jaipur, Aafreen Rehman, has approached the Supreme Court against the triple talaq system after her husband divorced her in a letter sent by post.
All this should be seen in the backdrop of the Shah Bano Case of 1985, when the then Chief Justice of India, YV Chandrachud, upheld the common civil code while awarding maintenance to a divorced Muslim woman. However, this gave rise to protests and eventually a new law reversed the award. But last year the Supreme Court had ruled that divorced Muslim women were entitled to seek maintenance from their ex-husbands under the Criminal Procedure Code.
But on the issue of triple talaq the court had reserved its right to pronounce on the matter because it viewed the issue as one concerning fundamental rights and not one of legislation. It is here that Parliament needs to step into the breach. It would be encouraging for the Muslim women if political parties and the Muslim Personal law Board apply their mind to the problem and come up with a solution within a timeframe.