Law commission chairman justice Balbir Singh Chauhan has invited Muslim women and other groups to discuss their concerns about triple talaq, the controversial Islamic practice of divorce that is facing a legal challenge.
The debate should create an atmosphere where people themselves ask for a change, justice Chauahan said.
“On triple talaq, there should be a healthy debate without any clapperclaws and slogans in which women should table their concerns, to create such an atmosphere that people themselves should come forward asking for the change in the law,” he said.
The Muslim practice of a man ending marriage by uttering the word talaq (I divorce you) thrice has been described as biased by several women, who have petitioned the Supreme Court to scrap triple talaq along with nikah halal and polygamy.
Several Muslim groups have opposed the change, saying courts and the government can’t interfere in the community’s personal laws.
Chauhan was particularly harsh on nikaha halala, describing it as the worst kind of assault on the dignity of women.
Nikah halala allows a woman to go back to her husband after she marries someone else, consummates the marriage and gets a divorce.
“Much grievance can be held against the triple talaq but halala is the worst kind of violation of the dignity of every woman,” he said.
The commission had last year sought public views on a uniform civil code, a political hot potato, by putting out a 16-point questionnaire, saying the focus would be on family laws of all religions to address social injustices.
Justice Chauhan was addressing a gathering on Tuesday at the launch of a book on women rights, Istri Dasha and Disha, by Abha Singh and Nasim Ansari Kochar.
His remarks came three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Muslims to keep the triple talaq debate away from politics, saying he hoped efforts to reform the practice would come from the community.
Justice Chauhan also said people should be educated before making or tweaking a law, as he cited changes in the Hindu marriage act failing to take note of gotra marriage.
Marriages within a gotra, or an extended caste group, are frowned upon in north India, especially Haryana.
“When Hindu Marriage Act was introduced, none raised the point that sagotra marriages were prohibited amongst Hindus, and all same gotra girls were taken as sisters,” he said.
“It was a custom for 2000 years. But suddenly Parliament changed the law, neither the people were consulted, nor were they told about it.”
A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will from May 11 hear petitions challenging the validity of triple talaq.
The Centre has already told the court that the practice was discriminatory, unconstitutional and against gender equality.
India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion, governing marriage, divorce and succession. While Hindu law overhaul began in the 1950s, activists have long argued that Muslim personal law has remained mostly unchanged.