Triple Talaq case: What the Editorials said

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 24, 2017 13:11 hrs
The triple talaq that triple talaq needs
Cartoon: Satish Acharya

In a much awaited verdict, the Supreme Court ordered a stay on the centuries old practice of triple talaq in a 5-3 decision where the majority agreed that the practice was un-Islamic and arbitrary. The verdict garnered praise from political parties, activists and the petitioners. The Prime Minister and the Congress Vice President welcomed the decision –

The Hindustan Times editorial lauded the Supreme Court for its decision and those who fought against the practice –

“This judgment is not just a testament to the grit and determination of Shayara Bano and four other women who decided to the take the issue head on and approach the Supreme Court, but also Muslim groups, especially women, who came out in protest against instant triple talaq.”

“The judgment suits the political establishment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been very vocal in his support for the Muslim women. On the occasion of 71st Independence Day, Mr Modi admired the courage of women who have been suffering due to triple talaq, asserted that nation is with them in their struggle.”

A group of reformists who had been campaigning against the practice welcomes the court’s decision; at the same time set their sights forward on inheritance laws, guardianship of children and adoption by Muslim women. Syed Tanveer Nasreen, professor of gender studies in Burdwan University and a member of the group said, “This is the first step towards upholding the rights of Muslim women since Independence. This is just the beginning. Now, issues like inheritance laws, guardianship and others will be highlighted, moving towards a common civil law.”

Siddiqullah Chowdhury leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind defied the court order saying, “I do not know what my party’s stand is. Yes, I am a minister in West Bengal government. But still, I will say that this right has been there since ages. This right is conferred by Quran Sharif. No court has the right to nullify it.” This comes after the verdict where Justice Joseph concluded that “what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.”

The lawyers representing the founders of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan in the triple talaq case, Warisha Farasat and Shadan Farasat write an op-ed in the Indian Express saying the verdict safeguards rights of Muslim women –

“The plurality of opinions rendered by five judges of the constitution bench has, in effect, ensured that the agency and rights of Muslim women are protected but at the same time the rights of Muslim minorities with respect to their personal law is not subjected to undesirable and motivated attacks.”

“The range of arguments put forth in court, from which this plurality arises, indicates a healthy and lively discussion amongst the Muslim community on the issue of talaq-i-bidat.”

Given the verdict and the arguments made by the members of the bench, they chart the path forward –

“A comprehensive legislation of Muslim personal law — as opposed to a uniform civil code — taking into account the global developments in Muslim personal law and the social realities of Indian Muslims today, after a detailed discussion with all stakeholders is the way forward. That is the space for the Muslim women’s movement to engage with next.”

Capitalizing on the issue as a result of being in power, the BJP; not necessarily seen as being a party that’s friendly to Muslims, became the first political party in power to take a stand against triple talaq in court. The BJP also made ending triple talaq a campaign promise in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.

Politically, it’s in the BJP’s hands to see how they wish to proceed. Naish Hasan, co-founder of Bharat Muslim Mahila Aandolan stated that the fight against triple talaq wasn’t linked to a particular political party. Seeking the support of the Congress when they were in power, she never got it saying, “The Congress has only seen value in supporting the Muslim man and the maulvis but never the Muslim woman. Now if the BJP has taken advantage of the mistake that the Congress made then where is the problem?”

The Indian Express editorial stated that the verdict kept open spaces for reform –

“The several voices in which the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court has spoken on a practice seen as intolerable to all, therefore, mirrors and speaks to the complexity of the matter and its fraught political environment — and in doing so, offers perhaps the best chance for reform.”

“That the court has not unanimously or starkly framed the issue as an opposition between the constitution and personal law may seem to some to be a missed chance to uphold constitutional values.”

“The several voices in which the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court has spoken on a practice seen as intolerable to all, therefore, mirrors and speaks to the complexity of the matter and its fraught political environment — and in doing so, offers perhaps the best chance for reform.”

Mariya Salim, a member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan writes in The Wire about the movement –

“Many others say the number of victims nationally is not large enough to make instant triple talaq an issue that needs immediate redressal. So do we wait for the numbers to rise instead then? Leading lawyers and activists also seem to have a problem with the BMMA and others asking for a conclusive judgment from the apex court on an issue they deal with on a daily basis.”

“It is ridiculous to associate us with a particular political party just because they have come upfront and supported our fight, while some others did not. We want everyone, irrespective of political leanings, to support us in our fight for gender justice and reforms in Muslim personal laws from within.”

The Chief Justice of India was one of the two who were in the minority stating that the practice was protected under Article 25 of the constitution. He stated that, “(the practice) will not be subjected to any challenge, even though they may seem to others (and even rationalists practicing the same faith) unacceptable, in today’s world and age.”

The Hindu editorial praised the verdict as undoing injustice –

“By declaring the discriminatory practice of instant triple talaq as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has sent out a clear message that personal law can no longer be privileged over fundamental rights.”

“…opinion against triple talaq could not have gathered critical mass and the case against it significantly bolstered if it weren’t for a few women standing up to the community’s conservative elements and challenging it.”

The win however is not for any party, but for the women who have fought this fight and demanding reforms. The five Muslim women - Shayara Bano, Gulshan Parveen, Afreen Rehman, Attiya Sabri and Ishrat Jahan who spearheaded the fight against this practice endured threats from radical elements within the community and even turned down requests from the Muslim Law Board to withdraw their petitions.

As Shayara Bano puts it when she was questioned as to why she was maligning the Muslim community, “I told them I may have lost everything but I'm fighting for other women who are going to face such a situation.”

More columns by Varun Sukumar

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