Triple talaq and nikah halala

President Ramnath Kovind in an address to the joint meeting of members of both Houses of Parliament, called for the eradication of the practice of triple talaqs and nikah halala for ensuring equal rights for women and upholding women’s dignity.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had declared triple talaq illegal in 2017. This decision must be applauded because giving triple talaq was a barbaric feudal practice, which allowed a Muslim husband in India to divorce his wife orally (or by a letter) and throw her out of the house for any rhyme or reason. Hundreds of young Muslim women had been treated like this; their lives ruined, thereby.

I remember when I was a judge of the Supreme Court, a case came before a three-judge bench of which I was a member. The facts of that case were that a Muslim husband in Odisha, who had three children, had pronounced triple talaq on his wife while intoxicated with liquor. However, this was done in a room where no one else was present.

For about a month, no one, except the wife, knew of it until one day she unwittingly mentioned this to a friend. That friend related it to someone else, and the information spread to others until it reached the ears of a local maulvi who said the two could not be allowed to live together as they were no longer husband and wife.

An incensed mob of Muslims collected in front of the house of the couple and demanded them to separate. All the pleas of the wife that she had three small children and nowhere to go were to no avail.

Most of the opposition parties are opposing the triple talaq bill with an obvious eye on the Muslim vote bank

Public interest litigation was filed in the Orissa High Court, which was dismissed. Then, an appeal came before the Supreme Court. I said this was a civilised country, and Muslims, too, must behave. How was it anyone’s business whether the couple lived together or not? When a counsel referred to the sharia, I said the Indian Constitution prevailed over the sharia. Having said so we directed the police to give protection to the couple and take strong action against those interfering with their lives.

Another incident that I may mention was of a young Muslim woman, whom I knew. She was married to a Muslim youth living in England. The youth had come to India for the wedding (which I had attended). He then went back to England, saying he would make arrangements for her to move to England. But shortly, thereafter, she received a letter pronouncing triple talaq. She was so upset on receiving this that she came close to committing suicide.

Hundreds of similar cases can be narrated, and, therefore, I have always been a strong votary of the abolition of triple talaq. The reactionary Muslim clerics, however, always opposed the abolition of this barbaric practice whenever proposed. Most of our politicians, having an eye on the Muslim vote bank, on which the clerics had a hold, too, acquiesced.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has declared the practice illegal.

However, even after this judgment, 229 cases of the pronouncement of triple talaq have been reported in India, as the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. So, the government has brought a bill in the parliament to make triple talaq a criminal offence punishable with up to three years in jail.

Most of the opposition parties are opposing the bill with an obvious eye on the Muslim vote bank. I am no supporter of the BJP but I strongly support the bill.

The argument given by the opposition is that if a husband is sent to jail for pronouncing triple talaq, who will provide for the wife when her husband is in jail? He remains the husband in the view of the SC judgment, and, hence, she cannot remarry.

In my opinion, if this reasoning is accepted, no husband should ever be sent to jail, even if he has committed murder, rape or robbery because that would risk starving his wife and children.

If a man with a wife kills his daughter for marrying outside the caste or religion or kills his daughter-in-law for not brining an acceptable dowry, should he not be hanged or sent to jail over concern for his wife? If a married policeman kills somebody in a fake encounter or in custody, should he not be punished? The logic is specious.

To stamp out a feudal, backward and barbaric practice, strong action is required from the state, no matter how adverse the consequences may be.

India is passing through a transitional period in its history. To move forward, we must suppress backward, feudal, reactionary and barbaric practices. When we hew wood, some chips would fly.

The practice of nikah halala is equally obnoxious. It prescribes a divorced Muslim couple cannot remarry unless the wife marries another man; the second marriage is consummated and then the second husband divorces the woman. There are reports of divorced Muslim women, who want to be remarried to their husbands, paying money to clerics for nikah halala. Can one imagine a more disgusting practice?

I, therefore, fully support the view of the honourable president of India as well as the Triple Talaq Bill.

The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India

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