New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would determine if the Muslim practice of triple talaq is in line with the Constitution and fundamental to Islam.
“We will only look at triple talaq and whether it is constitutional and not go into issues such as polygamy," a five-judge Constitution bench said.
The bench comprising chief justice J.S. Khehar, justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton F. Nariman, U.U. Lalit and Abdul Nazeer will hear the case over six days. The court is likely to even sit over the weekend to complete the hearing.
The court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy under Muslim personal law. The court is also hearing a plea—Muslim women’s quest for equality—which it took up on its own accord.
Triple talaq is the practice under which a Muslim man divorces his wife by uttering the word ‘talaq’ thrice. Nikah halala requires a female divorcee to marry someone else, consummate the marriage and then get a divorce to remarry her previous husband.
On examining the constitutionality of polygamy in Muslim law, “If Parliament does not show its concern, can the court do it," justice Joseph asked.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, argued that the court cannot delve into personal laws of a community.
Constitutionally, Muslims and other minority religions are allowed to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil codes.
The court also heard senior advocate Salman Khurshid, who has offered to assist the court.
“Divorce cannot come into effect immediately after someone says talaq thrice. Representatives of both parties will try for a reconciliation and a qazi (priest) is informed if it fails," Khurshid said.
On Friday, senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing one of the women who moved the court, will argue against the practice of triple talaq.
“Personal laws have to comply with fundamental rights listed in the Constitution," she said on Thursday. “Triple talaq is extra-judicial and a unilateral form of divorce, leaving no scope for any maintenance or alimony for the distressed wife."
The centre also told the court that it supports the petitioners in challenging triple talaq.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the Centre will protect the rights of women. “The practice is unconstitutional, against gender justice and strips women of dignity," Mehta said.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said triple talaq was not a religious issue but related to social ills and reform, according to news agency Press Trust of India. He added that the debate would have a “positive bearing on the (Muslim) community and the country."
On 9 May, the Allahabad high court held that the practice of triple talaq was unconstitutional and violative of basic human rights of Muslim women.