The Supreme Court, based on a plea filed by Shayara Bano, directed the central government to produce a report on oral, unilateral and triple talaq. A high-level committee set up by the central government has sought a ban on such practices. Following this, the committee has suggested changes and additions to the Muslim Marriages Act 1939.
Muslim women see hope in SC study of triple talaq
Eram Agha | TNN | Mar 30, 2016 Aligarh: With the Supreme Court deciding to study the legality of triple talaq, several women who have been victims of this unilateral form of divorce see a ray of hope that a change could be around the horizon. TOI talked to some of these victims and tries to explain the controversial law.
On Monday, the apex court agreed to review the law upon Shayara Bano's plea which said, "The practice of triple talaq practically treats women like chattel. Many Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq, have banned or restricted such practice but it continues to vex Indian society in general and Muslim women like the petitioner in particular."
In February this year, 47-year-old Afsha Khan was given triple talaq by her husband, a sitting judge of a district court in Aligarh, 59-year-old Mohd Zaheeruddin Siddiqui. She wrote several letters to the Chief Justice of India and the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court apprising them of how a judge is acting in contravention with the ethics of his post. Siddiqui remained firm on his stand that since he could not reach a compromise with Afsha, he divorced her according to the shariat.
Another human rights activist who shared her story, but did not wished to be named, said her former husband was living abroad and decided to call off their marriage over the phone.
"He just told me (over text message) 'Talaq, Talaq, Talaq' and not a word since," said the activist. Her attempts at reconciliation failed and her husband did not even meet her to call off the marriage. She was told that since her husband has already decided, it would be "un-Islamic for her" to stay with him. She claims there wasn't the mandatory three-month waiting period and no real attempts of reconciliation were made by his family.
The Muslim Personal Law (Sharia) Application Act, 1937 accepts Talaq when "any man who wishes to divorce his wife shall, as soon as may be after the pronouncement of talaq in any form whatsoever, give the chairman a notice in writing of his having done so, and shall supply a copy thereof to the wife."
Muslim men conveniently uses the clause "talaq in any form whatsoever" and divorce their wives over Skype, Whatsapp or text message. But Quranic verses emphasize dialogue, discussion and compromise by family members before talaq. This process is supposed to last 90 days in the presence of "two witnesses on each side".
The ulema and members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, however, say that triple talaq is in line with the Quran. The Board has been resistant to the Supreme Court's intervention as it sees as meddling with Muslim personal laws. Both had said Muslim personal law was Quran-based and not enacted by the legislature and hence was beyond the ambit of judicial scrutiny.
"Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan has time and again conducted surveys to show how Muslim women are being divorced arbitrarily and want ban on the practice. Triple talaq is widely prevalent in Indian Muslim society despite of the fact that it is absolutely against the Quran. The practice is banned in most Muslim countries in the world, even Pakistan and Bangladesh," said Zakia Soman of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
They also said that, in order to get rid of triple talaq in India, there must be amendment of Shariat Application Act, 1937, which loosely says Muslims will be governed by shariat without specifying what is Quranic and what isn't.