' No triple talaq in secular India'.
The battle of Bano, a sociologist postgraduate and a mother of two who moved the Supreme Court saying the practice of triple talaq and polygamy ' No triple
under Muslim personal laws are " illegal and unconstitutional", got a shot in the arm with the government on Friday filing an affidavit in the apex court opposing such practices. The government said there is no reason that women in India should be denied their Constitutional rights' when " Muslim countries where Islam is the state religion have undergone extensive reform" in this sphere.
Bano's story is shocking. She endured a bad marriage, an abusive husband, forced abortions and physical and mental agony for over 10 years. Then, last year, her husband sent a letter to her parents' home where she was staying for almost a year. Inscribed on that piece of paper were three words:
" Talaq, Talaq, Talaq". " The fact that Muslim countries where Islam is the state religion have undergone extensive reform goes to establish that the practices in question cannot be regarded as integral to the practice of Islam or essential religious practices. Secularism being a hallmark of Indian democracy, no part of its citizenry ought to be denied access to fundamental rights, much less can any section of a secular society be worse off than its counterparts in theocratic countries, many of which have undergone reform," said the government's affidavit.
The Centre argued that triple talaq is ' misplaced' in a secular country like India. Taking a progressive stand, the Centre told the highest court in its affidavit that validity of triple talaq and polygamy should be seen in light of gender justice. It said that triple talaq goes against the principle of gender equality, calling it ' unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory.' The government's views came out in last month's meeting of Group of Ministers formulated on the issue. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi met last week to deliberate on the government's possible stand to be taken in SC on the Muslim practice of triple talaq ( talaq- e- bidat).
Opposing petitions of nearly seven aggrieved Muslim women who wanted the SC to scrap the practice, the All- India Muslim Personal Law Board has filed a response saying Constitution does not touch upon the personal laws and therefore the SC cannot examine the question of constitutional validity of the practices of marriage, divorce and maintenance in Muslim personal law.
Centre's affidavit comes at a time when AIMPLB, defending the validity of triple talaq, even took the bizarre ground that if the practice is discontinued, a man could even murder or burn his wife alive to get rid of her.
" If there develops serious discord between the couple, and the husband does not at all want to live with her, legal compulsions of time- consuming separation proceedings and expenses may deter him from taking the legal course.
In such instances, he may resort to illegal, criminal ways of murdering or burning her alive," stated the AIMPLB's affidavit . But in its affidavit the Centre said: " Gender equality and dignity of woman are non- negotiable, overarching constitutional values and can brook no compromise.
These rights are necessary in letter and in spirit to realise aspirations of every individual woman." Govt argues that triple talaq is ' misplaced' in a secular nation like India
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