India’s top court suspends triple talaq law

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NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the use of a controversial Muslim divorce law until the government frames new legislation, a partial victory for Muslim women who had long argued that the law violated their right to equality.

“This is a sensitive case where sentiments are involved. We are directing the Union of India to consider appropriate legislation in this regard,” Justice JS Khehar said while announcing a six-month suspension on the practice of the divorce law.

The law allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times. Muslim women say they have been left destitute by husbands divorcing them through ‘triple talaq’, including by Skype and WhatsApp.

Case background

After her husband gave her triple talaq in October 2015, Shayara Bano approached the Supreme Court in 2016, challenging the validity of the divorce practices against women followed by Muslims, reported Times of India. Shayara is a 35-year-old woman from Uttarakhand’s Kashipur area and was married for 15 years before she was divorced. In her petition, Shayara asked the apex Court to declare talaq-e-bidat, polygamy and nikah halala illegal and unconstitutional on the grounds that they violate the rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25. However, her husband opposed Shayara’s plea on the ground they were governed by Muslim Personal Law and all three practices are sanctified provisions under the very same law.

The Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar was hearing seven petitions, including five separate writ petitions filed by Muslim women, challenging the practice of triple talaq prevalent in the community and terming it unconstitutional. The apex court had on its own taken cognizance of the question whether Muslim women faced gender discrimination in the event of divorce or due to other marriages by their husbands.

Five judges from five different communities heard the triple talaq case in the Supreme Court. They are Chief Justice JS Khehar (Sikh), Justices Kurian Joseph (Christian), RF Nariman (Parsi), UU Lalit (Hindu) and Abdul Nazeer (Muslim).

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