Home / Politics / Policy /  Personal laws cannot override constitutional rights: Allahabad HC

New Delhi: The Allahabad high court, in a verdict, stopped short of calling the practice of triple talaq under Muslim law unconstitutional but observed that personal laws could not override constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals.

The order gains significance in the background of the debate on the constitutionality of talak-e-biddat (triple talaq, a practice where Muslim men can divorce their wives by saying “talaq" three times), nikah halala (a practice under which a woman who wishes to remarry her former husband must first consummate a marriage with another man) and polygamy—all issues before the Supreme Court.

The high court noted that triple talaq is a cruel and most demeaning form of divorce practised by the Muslim community.

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In the order dated 5 November, the high court criticised the manner in which Muslim law is being interpreted by clerics. “Women cannot remain at the mercy of the patriarchal set-up held under the clutches of sundry clerics having their own interpretation of the holy Quran," the order said. The court’s order was welcomed across parties.

“BJP’s ideology of gender equality stands vindicated by the court’s observation. A progressive society cannot be subjected to a regressive religious practice," BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said.

“This should have happened long ago. I am happy that my Muslim sisters will have more rights, security, and dignity in their lives. It’s an idea that has come of age," the Congress party’s Renuka Chowdhury said.

There are at least three cases clubbed together in the apex court on the plea to reform and remove gender discrimination in Muslim personal laws for women. The first of these cases, is a public interest litigation (PIL) set up by the apex court itself. Two other PILs were filed later.

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The BJP government at the centre has informed the Supreme Court that practices like triple talaq are against the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution.

The AIMPLB (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) said it opposed any interference from the apex court (and other institutions) in practices prescribed for Muslims and said that any order from the court laying down rules on the issues of marriage, divorce and maintenance would count as judicial legislation and a violation of the principle of separation of powers between the different arms of the government. The high court also criticized the direction Muslim law in India has taken, saying that, “Muslim law, as applied in India, has taken a course contrary to the spirit of what the Prophet or the Holy Quran laid down."

PTI contributed to this story.

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