India's Supreme Court suspends instant divorce law

India's top court has ruled the practice of instant divorce within the country's Muslim community as ‘unislamic and unconstitutional’, marking a major victory for women's rights activists

22 August 2017, 8:20am
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said instant triple talaq is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said instant triple talaq is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality
India's Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the use of a divorce law until the government frames new legislation, a partial victory for Muslim women who had long argued that the law violated their right to equality.

The court came to its verdict with a 3-2 majority.

"This is a sensitive case where sentiments are involved. We are directing the Union of India to consider appropriate legislation in this regard," Justice J.S. Khehar said while announcing a six-month suspension on the practice of the divorce law.

Three of the judges called the controversial practice "unIslamic, arbitrary and unconstitutional".

The law allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word "talaq" (divorce) three times.

The landmark court decision came after it considered petitions challenging the so-called "triple talaq" custom.

Muslim women say they have been left destitute by husbands divorcing them through "triple talaq", including by Skype and WhatsApp.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andola, a Muslim organisation, launched a campaign two years ago to ban triple talaq.

A recent survey released by the BMMA found that 92 percent of the 4,710 Muslim women surveyed wanted a total ban on verbal or unilateral divorce.

Triple talaq was already ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a number of cases, including in February 2015.

Muslims in India, who make up the largest religious minority in the country, are governed by the Muslim Personal Law.

The legislation is not codified, which means it is open to interpretation by local clergy.

As a result, BMMA noted that Muslim women are "excluded educationally, economically and socially owing to government neglect and suffer from near absence of any legal framework in matters of family and marriage".

"Muslim women in India have suffered for the last 70 years. It's a historic day for us, but it doesn't end here. I cannot tell you how much Indian women have supported us, despite their religions," Zakia Soman, a women's rights activist from BMMA told reporters.