The issue of triple talaq — the Islamic practice of oral divorce by uttering ‘talaq’ thrice — is likely to heat up this summer as the Supreme Court decided to hear related petitions between May 11 and 19. The apex court will also hear petitions challenging the practice of polygamy and nikaha halala among Muslims during this period.
The central government had taken a stand against triple talaq in the court, contending that it left Muslim women vulnerable and that this practice cannot be an essential part of a religion. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) opposed it though, arguing that the petitioners sought to enforce fundamental rights against private parties.
Even as the apex court is seized with the matter, the Law Commission, following the NDA government’s reference, is studying whether the time is ripe for the implementation of uniform civil code (UCC).
The UCC is one of three core agendas the ruling BJP has championed since its inception, the other two being the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and scrapping of Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The NDA government’s stance on triple talaq — that it projected as an issue concerning gender justice — resonated in the recent assembly elections. BJP leaders claim that a section of Muslim women voted for the party because of its stand on triple talaq.
For the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, three constitution benches of five judges each will sit during the summer break. This would be in addition to the two regular vacation benches set up every year to hear urgent matters.
Chief Justice of India JS Khehar made the announcement on Thursday while fixing May 11, the first day of the summer break, for hearing petitions demanding scrapping of triple talaq, nikah halala and practice of polygamy among Muslim community.
The court was ready to give up its vacation to hear “issues of grave importance”, the CJI said. “The court is ready to sit even on Saturdays and Sundays to hear the matter,” he said.
Nineteen of the 28 judges will be hearing cases during the 90-day break, which is unprecedented. Typically, four SC judges work during court holidays.
The practice has often come under criticism in the face of huge backlog. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last year questioned the long vacation.
The SC also breaks for around 10 days in winters. High courts follow a similar holiday calendar though dates vary.
The court will also hear if WhatsApp sharing with Facebook, its parent company, details of calls, messages, photographs and documents exchanged by 160 million Indian users violated the citizens’ right to privacy.
The third constitution bench will examine whether children born to Bangladeshi migrants could be accorded Indian citizenship. It is not clear which of the benches would be led by the CJI.