Amid a raging debate over triple talaq, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday that personal laws must comply with constitutional provisions and should not infringe people’s right to live in dignity.
In an article on Facebook, Jaitley wrote: “Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant and the institution of Triple Talaq, therefore, will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the Right to Live with Dignity.”
He also made a distinction between religious practices and civil rights. “Religious functions associated with birth, adoption, succession, marriage, death, can all be conducted through rituals and customs as per existing religious practices. Should rights emanating from birth, adoption, succession, marriage, divorce etc. be guided by religion or by constitutional guarantees? Can there be inequality or compromise with human dignity in any of these matters?”
While a section of the minorities has questioned the government’s move, Jaitley maintained that personal laws that need not be constitutionally compliant are “obsolete”. He also provided examples of reforms of personal laws of communities that had taken place over the years by the Jawaharlal Nehru, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments.
“Reforming the personal laws, even if there is no uniformity, is an ongoing process. With passage of time, several provisions became obsolete, archaic and even got rusted. Governments, legislatures and communities have to respond to the need for a change,” he said.
Pitching for gender equality, the minister said as communities have progressed, there is a greater realisation that women have a right to live with dignity.
“The issue before the Supreme Court is only with regard to the constitutional validity of triple talaq. Governments in the past have shied from taking a categorical stand that personal laws must comply with Fundamental Rights. The present Government has taken a clear position.”