Five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court of India, all of the different faiths today declared that Muslim practice of ‘triple talaq’ or instant divorce by uttering ‘talaq’ three times is ‘illegal and sinful’. The judges are from 5 different religions of India – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. They said, “Triple talaq is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality. What is sinful under religion cannot be valid under the law”.
The constitution of 5 judges heard 7 petitions filed by Muslim women. The Muslim women challenged the 1400-year-old belief including such a case where one woman got ‘Triple Talaq’ (divorce) message on WhatsApp.
The verdict, which has been consolidated by the majority of the justices is, “Triple Talaq may be a permissible practise but it retrograde and unworthy. Since triple talaq is instant it is irrevocable and the marital tie gets broken. It is violative of Article 14, the right to equality.”
Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer told in a different way that ‘triple talaq’ might be sinful, but the court could not interfere in personal laws that had the status of fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. Rather they wanted to put a hold on ‘triple talaq’ for six months, and by this time the government could bring a new law.
The Central Government told the Supreme Court that practices like ‘triple talaq’ heavily affected social position and honour of Muslim women and deny them fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution of India.
Muslim women were struggling for their victory against this kind of deprivation, exploitation and indignity for a long time. Now, their struggle has become successful, they are able to appeal to the court to have their fundamental rights against the 1400 years old exploitation.
In this context of a great and historic decision as far as Muslim religion is concerned, we can have a flashback to our past where Bengal was facing a dreadful practice by Hindu communities. ‘Sati Pratha’ – it was such a practice in which a young woman was being immolated either voluntarily or by force into her deceased husband’s ‘pyre’.
It was the time of the 18th century when India was under British rule. It was Raja Rammohan Roy who argued and pressurised Governor-General Lord William Bentinck to take necessary steps and proclaim the act of Sati illegal. After immense motivation of the anti ‘Sati Pratha’ movement, the Governor-General Lord William Bentinck issued Regulation No-XVII in the month of December 1829. He declared that the practice of ‘Sati Pratha’ or, ‘burning’ or, ‘burying alive of widows illegal and punishable’ by the criminal courts as ‘culpable homicide’.
After this act of 1829, the cruel practice of ‘Sati Pratha’ was abolished from the customary rituals of Hindu society; though orthodox Brahmins of the Hindu society produced tremendous opposition.
Today, August 22, 2017, has become the historic day after the division bench of the Supreme Court of India ordered equality to Muslim women. Let us recall Swami Vivekananda’s words which are very much compatible with this situation where he said, “The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women…There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved…Woman has suffered for aeons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite perseverance…The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence…There is no hope of rising for that family or country where there is no estimation of women, where they live in sadness.”