CONTROVERSIAL Muslim divorce law, known as triple talaq, has been deemed “unconstitutional” by India’s Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, banning the practice for six months while Parliament introduces a permanent law.
Five of the country’s most senior judges came to the landmark verdict, calling the practice “bad in law”, according to NDTV.
“Triple talaq will not be in operation for six months. If law doesn’t come into force in six months, then SC’s injunction on triple talaq will continue,” said the top court, as reported by Daily News & Analysis.
Triple talaq (divorce) is a Muslim practice that allows Muslim men to leave their wives effective immediately just by saying the word “talaq” three times.
The practice is legal for Muslims under India’s constitution, but several Muslim women recently challenged the 1,400-year-old practice after being divorced, some over Whatsapp and Skype.
The five judges, of different faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism – heard the case over five days back in May.
During the proceedings, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental body which oversees the application of Muslim personal law, opposed the ban arguing it is a religious matter and not for the courts.
“Testing the validity of customs and practices of a community is a slippery slope into which the Supreme Court must not venture,” said the board’s lawyer Kapil Sibal, as reported by The Times of India.
Rights groups, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have called the practice derogatory and discriminatory against women.
Modi has addressed the topic numerous times in public speeches, pledging to protect the right to equality of all women.
India allows religious institutions to govern matters of personal law – marriage, divorce and property inheritance – through civil codes. Until today, triple talaq was considered a legal avenue for the country’s nearly 180 million Muslims to end marriages.
In 2016, Shayara Bano, a 35-year-old-woman, challenged the practice after her husband of 15 years divorced her instantly in a letter sent to her when she was visiting her parents.
Petitions of four other Muslim women – Aafreen Rehman, Gulshan Parveen, Ishrat Jahan and Atiya Sabri – followed and were tagged with Shayara’s plea, triggering a landmark case that will affect the lives of millions of Muslim women.