Petitions challenging the Islamic practice of triple talaq and other Muslim personal laws will be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court May 11 onwards. The apex court referred the matter to the Constitution bench after rejecting Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s request that the petitions be heard before the summer vacations, ANI reported.

Rohatgi had argued that hearing this case during the court’s vacation – from May 11 to June 30 – would pose difficulties because the Constitution bench was due to hear two other cases then. Chief Justice JS Khehar dismissed his request saying the triple talaq debate was an “issue of grave importance”. “If we don’t come to a decision on it, the issue will be pending for years, and then don’t come blaming the judiciary,” he said, according to India Today.

On February 16, the Centre had submitted four questions seeking to determine the constitutional validity of the practice, as well as those of polygamy and nikah halala – all part of Muslim personal laws. “An important aspect of the issues projected is whether triple talaq is a fundamental trait of religion...If the answer to the question is affirmative, then the entire issue will have to be examined from a very different constitutional perspective,” the bench led by Chief Justice JS Khehar and justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud had observed.

Rohatgi had framed the questions to help the court decide whether such personal laws can be blamed for being discriminatory against Muslim women under the Constitution, which stands for equality for all citizens. The Centre had sought to know whether marriage, divorce and inheritance can be regulated under the Constitution’s Article 13 instead of civil codes. Article 13 looks into laws that are inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights.

After the counsel for the Muslim Personal Law Board called for a detailed hearing on the subject, the bench had requested all parties to frame questions, list their opinions with reasoning and case laws and submit their filings to the attorney general by March 30. In written submissions to the court on Monday, the board had stressed that the practices did not discriminate against women and were protected by the Constitutional right to practice and propagate one’s religion. It had opposed the petitions challenging them in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has been hearing a number of petitions related to the triple talaq debate. On February 14, the bench had refused to club hearings on the Uniform Civil Code with those on Muslim personal laws, saying they were two separate subjects. On October 7, the Centre had taken an official stand against triple talaq and polygamy, telling the top court that gender equality was non-negotiable.