The Centre on Monday urged the Supreme Court to declare the Islamic practices of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy inconsistent with Muslim women’s fundamental right to life and dignity. Emphasising that Muslim women cannot be denied their Constitutional right to equality, the government told the top judiciary that they had the authority to regulate the right to religion to ensure that practices did not go against modern day liberal values like gender equality, according to The Economic Times.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the Centre pointed out that no reforms had been brought in in the Muslim community for more than 65 years. It urged the bench to examine whether practices such as triple talaq were, indeed, an intrinsic part of Islam and hence protected under the Constitutional right to religion, as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has maintained since the court began to hear petitions challenging the divorce practice.
The central government, once again, highlighted Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, Iran and Egypt where a number of reforms have been implemented and the practices of “instant triple talaq” or “automatic polygamy at will” are no longer allowed.
“The paradox is that Muslim women in India are more vulnerable in their social status because of the prevalence of such practices, even though they live in a secular country,” it said. “These practices...affect the social status and dignity of Muslim women and render them unequal and vulnerable qua men belonging to their own community, women belonging to other communities and also Muslim women outside India,” Hindustan Times reported.
The government also emphasised that women cannot be denied the status and gender equality that they are Constitutionally entitled to on the pretext of preserving personal laws. To change this reality, it has called for personal laws to be brought under the ambit of Article 13 so any of them that violate the fundamental rights of citizens can be declared void.
The Centre had first taken an official stand against triple talaq, nikahl halala and polygamy on October 7, 2016, when it had told the top court that gender equality was non-negotiable. Its written submissions will be taken up from May 11 by a five-judge vacation bench of the Supreme Court, which has been hearing a number of petitions challenging the validity of the practices.