NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Tuesday banned a Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives instantly (known as ‘triple talaq‘), saying it was unconstitutional.
A panel of Supreme Court judges said that the practice, known as “triple talaq”, “is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality”, reported the NDTV.
The five judges were from India’s major faiths — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.
During the hearings, the court had clarified that it would only deliberate whether the practice of ‘triple talaq’ is part of an “enforceable” fundamental right to practice religion among Muslims and not on the practice of polygamy.
The bench, which includes Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and S Abdul Nazeer, while deliberating the issue, heard several pleas filed by Muslim women who had challenged the practice of instant triple talaq, where a man divorces his wife by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice.
In their ruling they said it was “manifestly arbitrary” to allow a man to “break down (a) marriage whimsically and capriciously”.
“What is sinful under religion cannot be valid under law,” they said.
The practice had been challenged in lower courts but it was the first time India’s Supreme Court had considered whether triple talaq was legal.
India allows religious institutions to govern matters of marriage, divorce and property inheritance in the multi-faith nation, enshrining triple talaq as a legal avenue for its 180 million Muslims to end unions.
But the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had backed the petitioners in this landmark case, declaring triple talaq unconstitutional and discriminatory against women.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has long pushed for a uniform civil code, governing Indians of all religions, to be enforced.
But the issue remains highly sensitive in India, where religious tensions often lead to violence.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a grouping of Islamic organisations, had opposed any efforts to ban triple talaq.
Zakia Soman, an activist and one of the petitioners on the case, said it had taken a lot of hard work to bring the issue to this level.
“That it has reached the highest body has created a lot of hope that we will get justice. In the past, this was not even possible,” said Soman.