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Advocating the need to hold “instant triple talaq” as violative of Islamic laws, former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan told the Supreme Court on Friday that the practice amounts to burying Muslim women alive. “Through triple talaq, they want to bury Muslim women alive,” Khan, who is also a senior counsel, told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, which continued to hear a batch of petitions challenging the practice for the second straight day.
Khan, who quit the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 to protest against its stand in the Shah Bano case, drew parallels to the practices which existed in pre-Islamic Saudi Arabia, where he said girl children were buried alive. He said triple talaq was the modern version of this. Answering the court’s query on whether it was fundamental to the practice of Islam, he said, “far from being fundamental or sacrosanct, it violates every good thing that the Quran prescribes.”
Khan, who had sought the court’s permission to intervene in the matter, also attacked the various schools of jurisprudence, saying “they had risen not in response to the requirements of Islam, but that of the empire…Those who overtook the state established by the Prophet after his death established the empire.” The counsel also targeted the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, saying “it had taken Islamic law to ridiculous levels”.
The court is hearing seven petitions, including five filed by Muslim women challenging the practice of polygamy, nikah halala and triple talaq in the community. The bench also comprises Justices Kurien Joseph, U U Lalit, R F Nariman and Abdul Nazeer. Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who appeared for three of the women petitioners and the Forum for Awareness of National Security, a voluntary organisation, said the practice was “repugnant to the teachings of the Prophet” and violative of the Constitution. Reminding that the state had an obligation under the directive principles of state policy enshrined in the Constitution to provide a uniform civil code to citizens, he said “at least start with giving a uniform code of marriage to husband and wife”.
Opinion | The battle against ‘triple talaq’
Secularism, he said, was nothing but the subjugation of religious doctrines to rule of law and added that the practice of instant triple talaq ought to be tested against Constitutional principles. Former Union minister Salman Khurshid, who the court had allowed to assist it as an amicus curiae, told the bench that the system of instant triple talaq “cannot be justified or given legal validity”.
He said the practice “was sinful but legal”, prompting Justice Kurien to wonder whether “something abhorred by religion can be made law by man”. Answering in the negative, Khurshid said, “speaking for myself, I don’t think any religious law will validate a sin”. “Are you trying to restate what Islam is?” Kurien asked Khurshid. The latter replied “yes”, adding that it would not amount to legislating or interfering in religion.
CJI Khehar, meanwhile, wanted to know if triple talaq existed outside India and whether any non-Islamic country had done away with it. The counsels pointed out that many Islamic countries had done away with the practice and that Sri Lanka was one of the non-Islamic countries that had banned triple talaq.