The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) executive committee meeting on Sunday did not discuss filing a review petition against the Supreme Court order holding instant triple talaq illegal. Sources said during informal discussions it was felt that a review plea may throw open more religious practices like polygamy to judicial scrutiny.
It was the first meeting of the AIMPLB’s highest decision-making body since the Supreme Court order. The board had maintained studied restraint on it and there was speculation that the executive committee could decide on a review petition.
At the marathon meeting in Bhopal on Sunday, the AIMPLB again accused the government of attempting an attack on Muslim personal laws, and welcomed the court order for not going in that direction.
Putting this one positive takeaway from last month’s triple talaq judgment — the majority verdict upholding personal laws based on religion — in jeopardy would not be a sensible move, many in the topmost echelons of the board felt. The executive committee, however, resolved to set up a panel to examine the judgment to find any inconsistencies with the Shariah. The board also recorded its “commitment to carry forward largescale reforms”.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the board said, “The government had laid bare its intention in the form of the Attorney General’s submissions in the Hon’ble Supreme Court that all forms of dissolution of marriages without intervention of the court should be declared as unconstitutional. We register our displeasure and consider it as attack on personal law of Muslims. This stand of the present government is contrary to the protection guaranteed by the Constitution of India. We make (a) categorical statement that the Community cannot and shall not tolerate such attack on personal law of Muslim community.”
On August 22, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, by a 3-2 majority verdict, had held the practice of instant triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) illegal. Several Muslim organisations, including the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, among the oldest in the country, had objected to this, saying that instant triple talaq should continue and be recognised as a legitimate divorce among Muslims even if that meant courting punishment as per the law of the land.
Kamal Faruqui, a member of the AIMPLB executive committee, told The Indian Express, “The matter of a review petition was absolutely not discussed at the meeting. Whoever thought we would be doing so was merely imagining things. We have always advocated a reasonable line, we are not in favour like some other organisations of taking to the streets at the slightest pretext. We try to steer clear of adopting a confrontational attitude because there are many other issues of Muslims, like education, that need attention. We will stand up against anyone when it is required, but now is not the time. We are not emphasising it, but we did win a major victory when the SC upheld personal laws; we are not talking because we do not want it to be politicised again.”
Board insiders say the matter of a review petition was discussed in informal deliberations over the past 20-odd days, but most felt that the risks of such a move far outweighed its potential benefits. Said a source, “There is a saying in Urdu, ‘Namaz bakshwane gaye they, roze gale padh gaye (Had gone to seek exemption from namaz, ended up being saddled with roza)’. Things have changed since the last order, there is a new CJI (Chief Justice of India), there will be a new Bench looking at it. What if they do not feel the same way about personal laws? What if they want to examine other practices like polygamy, nikah halala etc, like the original two-judge Bench had wanted examined? We would end up opening more fronts than we would like to. That is why the review petition never came up in the executive committee.”
Sunday’s resolution said Islamic/Sharia law is based upon Quran, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas and that the sanctity of belief and practices in personal/matrimonial relationship in Islamic laws cannot be treated differently from the belief and practices in personal/matrimonial relationship by other citizens who follow own customs and practices.
Holding that the board had always felt that instant triple talaq was a sin, even though admissible in the Hanafi, Maliki, Ambali and Shafai schools of Sunni law, the resolution said it had taken steps to discourage the practice through community-reform programmes and had issued a model nikahnama about two decades ago.
The board said it had also informed the apex court about its resolution passed on April 16, that those who indulge in talaq-e-bidat should be socially boycotted and had filed an affidavit that it would advise all qazis, imams, maulvis to counsel the bridegroom not to pronounce three divorces in one sitting.
The chief organiser of the AIMPLB women’s wing, Asma Zehra, claimed 99 per cent of Muslim women are in favour of Muslim personal law. “In the name of showing sympathy with Muslim women, a door is being opened to interfere in our religion.” She added that there would be a lot of difficulties in implementing the order on triple talaq.
‘Why sudden hurry on Babri?’
At its Sunday meeting, the AIMPLB executive committee also expressed its surprise over the Supreme Court’s decision to begin hearing the Babri Masjid case on a daily basis. Noting that the court had previously found it impossible to speed up the hearing because it had to go through a lot of documents, the board said it would abide by whatever the court decides, “but the process has to be judicial without bringing politics into it. It’s related to property, it’s a title suit.”
The AIMPLB said the court had now given very little time to the two parties, and that there was not enough time to translate all the documents. Saying “we would do our best”, the board said, “We feel this may be used as a plank by a certain political party. We want the might and respect of the court should not be compromised. Court is our last resort.”
It added that its president and general secretary would come out with a detailed observation at a later stage talking to lawyers. Without naming anyone, the board said “one gentleman from a particular party” was appearing in court without any authority, despite being told in the past that he would not be entertained.
With inputs from ENS, Bhopal