The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, that will hear a clutch of petitions relating to triple talaq, polygamy and ‘nikah halala‘ from Thursday, has a unique feature. The five judges belong to five different religions indicating religious diversity in the apex court.
The bench will be led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, the first Sikh to hold the post. Justice Kurian Joseph, only the sixth Christian to be elevated to the Supreme Court, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit of the Hindu community, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman of the Parsi community and Justice Abdul Nazeer, a Muslim, are the other four judges on the Bench.
It is interesting that the judges belonging to different religions will hear pleas seeking amendment in the Muslim Personal Law relating to triple talaq, an Islamic divorce practice in which the husband can legally separate from his wife by uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times. The practice is vociferously opposed by women’s organisations across the country who complain of abuse and exploitation by their husbands.
At the same time, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) backs the practice saying it is a ‘valid’ way to end a marriage even though it may be wrong. After an executive meeting last month in Lucknow, AIMPLB president Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadvi said Muslims have “complete constitutional right” to practise their personal law, which also put the responsibility on the community to “protect it by fully adhering to it”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently exhorted the Muslim community not to view triple talaq through a political prism. At a recent meeting with 25 Muslim leaders, the PM urged the leaders to take responsibility so as to initiate reform in this regard.
The top court will also hear petitions from today challenging the validity of ‘nikah halala’ under which a divorced Muslim woman has to marry again, consummate the marriage and then break it if she wants to go back to her first husband.