Triple talaq: SC issues notice to Centre

Marriage blues:A petition claimed that the sole objective of the new law was “to punish” Muslim men.G. RAMAKRISHNAG. RAMAKRISHNA  

The Supreme Court on Friday took on board a batch of petitions challenging the criminalisation of the pronouncement of triple talaq, even as it pointed out that certain practices such as dowry managed to survive despite being held invalid and condemned as crimes.

A Bench of Justices N.V. Ramana and Ajay Rastogi issued notice to the government on pleas challenging the constitutionality of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019, which penalises declaration of triple talaq by men.

After issuing notice, Justice Ramana closed the case file, but reopened it as an afterthought, saying “some people here will be disappointed if we do not ask you questions...”

The judge may have referred to the large media contingent in the court room.

Non-bailable offence

The petitions include one by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, which said the Act had made triple talaq a non-bailable offence by which men could be imprisoned for three years even as desertion of a wife by a husband is not considered an offence in India.

At best, desertion is a ground for divorce.

The Hind said the three-year imprisonment prescribed under the Act was both “disproportionate and excessive”.

The organisation said the law had made the declaration of triple talaq an offence graver than other crimes such as rioting, kidnapping, death by negligence, concealment of birth by secret disposal of body, bigamy, bribery, food adulteration and so on.

Another petition by Samastha Kerala Jamiathul, one of the biggest religious organisations of Sunni Muslim scholars and clerics in Kerala, claimed the sole objective of the new law was “to punish Muslim husbands”.

Jamiathul, represented by advocate Zulfiker Ali P.S, contended, “If the motive is to protect a Muslim wife in an unhappy marriage, no reasonable person can believe that the means to ensure it is by putting an errant husband in jail for three years and create a non-bailable offence for merely saying “talaq, talaq, talaq”. Further, the offence is confined only to Muslim husbands.

“It is absurd that for an utterance which has no legal effect, whether spoken by Muslim, Hindu or Christian, it is only the Muslim husband who is penalised with a three-year sentence. Protection of wives cannot be achieved by incarceration of husbands.”

‘Null and void’

The petition contended that the Supreme Court had declared the utterance of triple talaq “null and void”.

It urged the court to stay the operation of the ordinance while questioning the haste with which the government promulgated it.

A close look at the three separate opinions delivered by the Constitution Bench on August 22, 2017, showed that it was only the minority judgment of the Supreme Court that directed the government to bring an “appropriate legislation” on triple talaq.