NEW DELHI – A gutsy Muslim woman from Kerala has moved the Supreme Court against a law that criminalises the practice of triple talaq (instant divorce).
Noorbeena Rasheed on Monday became the first woman to file the petition against the legislation passed in 2019, declaring triple talaq unconstitutional and punishable. Similar petitions have been filed by Jamaat-e-Ulema-i-Hind, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Muslim Advocates Association, and two individuals.
Rasheed’s petition challenges the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage Act), 2019 that awards a three-year punishment for talaq-e-bidat, a practice also referred to as triple talaq, practised within a few Muslim communities and allowed for the husband to instantly divorce his wife by simply uttering “talaq, talaq, talaq.
The petition, as reported in Hindustan Times, stated, “The protection of women cannot be achieved by incarceration of husbands.”
A bench of three judges led by N V Ramana on Monday admitted her petition and issued a notice to the federal government. It will be heard with nine similar pleas challenging the law’s validity.
According to Rasheed’s petition, as also others, the law is disproportionate, excessive and stringent and the court must hold it unconstitutional. The petitions are yet to be listed for date of hearing.
In July 2019, the law was passed after intense debates in both the lower and upper Houses of Parliament. While the opposition parties argued that the law was meant for targeting of the Muslim community, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its government claimed that the law would help in achieving gender justice for Muslim women.
The provision of the law that allows the relatives of the women to file complaints has been focused in the petition. In case of false complaints, the law has the potential to destroy marital relationships.
“This provision is highly detrimental not only to the wife but also to the marital relationship”, says Rasheed in the petition which also sought clarification from the federal administration on the assessment that underlies incarcerating Muslim men for divorcing women.
“Welfare-oriented legislation would promote amicable resolution of matrimonial disputes rather than criminalise marital discord, particularly criminalisation of only one community…the intent behind the Act is not abolition of triple talaq (instant divorce) but punishment of Muslim husbands,” her petition said.
Rasheed is the national general secretary of the Indian Union Women’s League (IUWL), claimed to be the largest Muslim women’s organisation affiliated to the Kerala-based Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Her lawyer, Zulfikar Ali, reportedly wants to highlight how the law will be detrimental to the interests of Muslim women, whom it seeks to protect.
The practice of talaq-e-bidat was declared as unconstitutional by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in August 2017. The practice is banned in most Muslim countries, including Pakistan. The verdict came on a petition of five Muslim women, including lead petitioner Shayara Bano, who were abandoned after their husbands pronounced instant divorce.
Before bringing the law the government first issued an ordinance after the verdict to criminalise the practice of triple talaq. The law makes the practice a cognisable offence, and allows the police to carry out arrests without a warrant.
Though, as mentioned in the petition, Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind said that there are graver offences like rioting and bribery under the Indian Penal Code for which there is a lesser punishment than instant divorce.
Aside from India, the triple talaq practice is notably banned in 22 other countries, including Muslim-majority ones like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Iraq.