The government is set to oppose the controversial triple talaq divorce route for Muslims during a hearing in the Supreme Court next week, ditching a neutral stand on the politically sensitive tradition that the government says has no place in a secular country like India.
According to Muslim personal law based on the Sharia, a Muslim man can divorce his wife by pronouncing talaq thrice, a practice seen as discriminatory against women.
Sources in the Union law ministry said that the government will base its stand on the example of around 20 Islamic nations that regulate matrimonial law.
“If regulating matrimonial law in an acknowledged Islamic country is not a contravention of Sharia (Muslim personal) law, how can it be in a secular country like India where the Constitution is supreme?” a top government, functionary who is part of the government’s deliberations on the issue, reasoned.
India allows different communities to practise certain personal laws – in areas such as marriage and property – but has uniform criminal laws.
A group of ministers including Union home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi decided that the issue be looked at “as a gender justice issue.”
A campaign against triple talaq has been decried by Muslim clerics, with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board telling the SC on September 2 that personal laws cannot be re-written in the name of reforms.
In case of a discord, divorce was a better option available to a Muslim man than resorting to “criminal ways of getting rid of her (wife) by murdering her”, AIMPLB said, sparking controversy and inviting sharp criticism from women’s rights groups.
The law ministry which is drafting the government’s response will tell the top court that triple talaq is concerned with “non-discrimination with a woman and the dignity of an individual which permeates the entire scheme of fundamental rights under the constitution”.
According to the government’s new perspective on the matter, the fundamental right to religion cannot be confused with allowing a practice that is “unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory.”