Chief Justice of India, Jagdish Singh Khehar, whose term in office ends on August 27, may have headed the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court that in its historic judgment, on Tuesday, banned the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims but he, along with Justice S Abdul Nazeer, had favoured that the Union government and not the apex court should decide on the validity of Talaq-ul-Biddat
For a brief while on Tuesday morning, as the Supreme Court began pronouncing its historic verdict on the validity of Talaq-ul-Biddat, it felt as if the five-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar, did not want to take responsibility of banning the highly controversial practice itself but instead have the Centre and Parliament decide on the move.
It was only when the final order was read out that it emerged that the verdict was split and instant triple talaq was to be banned immediately, and Chief Justice Khehar’s opinion of letting the government pass a law to this effect was in a minority- supported by only one other member of the Bench, Justice S Abdul Nazeer.
Here’s a glimpse of what different members of the 5-judge Bench said in their order on the landmark case.
Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer
- We have arrived at the conclusion, that ‘talaq-e-biddat’, is a matter of ‘personal law’ of Sunni Muslims, belonging to the Hanafi school. It constitutes a matter of their faith. It has been practiced by them, for at least 1400 years. We have examined whether the practice satisfies the constraints provided for under Article 25 of the Constitution, and have arrived at the conclusion, that it does not breach any of them. We have also come to the conclusion, that the practice being a component of ‘personal law’ has the protection of Article 25 of the Constitution.
- We were obliged to keep reminding ourselves, of the wisdoms of the framers of the Constitution, who placed matters of faith in Part III of the Constitution… We cannot nullify and declare as unacceptable in law, what the Constitution decrees us, not only to protect, but also to enforce.
- Such a call of conscience, as the petitioners (demanding ban on triple talaq) desire us to accept, may well have a cascading effect. We say so, because the contention of the learned Attorney General was, that ‘talaq-e-ahsan’ and ‘talaq-e-hasan’ were also liable to be declared unconstitutional, for the same reasons as have been expressed with reference to ‘talaq-e-biddat’. According to the learned Attorney General, the said forms of talaq also suffered from the same infirmities as ‘talaq-e-biddat’. The practices of ‘polygamy’ and ‘halala’ amongst Muslims are already under challenge before us. It is not difficult to comprehend, what kind ofchallenges would be raised by rationalists, assailing practices of different faiths on diverse grounds, based on all kinds of enlightened sensibilities.
- The wisdom emerging from judgments rendered by this Court is unambiguous, namely, that while examining issues falling in the realm of religious practices or ‘personal law’, it is not for a court to make a choice of something which it considers as forward looking or non-fundamentalist. It is not for a court to determine whether religious practices were prudent or progressive or regressive. Article 25 obliges all Constitutional Courts to protect ‘personal laws’ and not to find fault therewith. Interference in matters of ‘personal law’ is clearly beyond judicial examination. The judiciary must therefore, always exercise absolute restraint, no matter how compelling and attractive the opportunity to do societal good may seem.
- A perusal of the consideration recorded by us reveals that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ has been done away with, by way of legislation in a large number of egalitarian States, with sizeable Muslim population and even by theocratic Islamic States… There can be no doubt, and it is our definitive conclusion, that the position can only be salvaged by way of legislation…The Union of India has appeared before us in support of the cause of the petitioners…Unfortunately, the Union seeks at our hands, what truly falls in its own.
- We therefore hereby direct, the Union of India to consider appropriate legislation, particularly with reference to ‘talaq-e-biddat’. We hope and expect, that the contemplated legislation will also take into consideration advances in Muslim ‘personal law’ – ‘Shariat’, as have been corrected by legislation the world over, even by theocratic Islamic States. When the British rulers in India provided succor to Muslims by legislation, and when remedial measures have been adopted by the Muslim world, we find no reason, for an independent India, to lag behind.
- Till such time as legislation in the matter is considered, we are satisfied in injuncting Muslim husbands, from pronouncing ‘talaq-e-biddat’ as a means for severing their matrimonial relationship. The instant injunction, shall in the first instance, be operative for a period of six months. If the legislative process commences before the expiry of the period of six months, and a positive decision emerges towards redefining ‘talaq-e-biddat’– as one, or alternatively, if it is decided that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ be done away with altogether, the injunction would continue, till legislation is finally enacted. Failing which, the injunction shall cease to operate.
Justice Kurian Joseph
- The Holy Quran has attributed sanctity and permanence to matrimony. However, in extremely unavoidable situations, talaq is permissible. But an attempt for reconciliation and if it succeeds, then revocation are the Quranic essential steps before talaq attains finality.51 In triple talaq, this door is closed, hence, triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran and consequently, it violates Shariat.
- I find it extremely difficult to agree with the learned Chief Justice that the practice of triple talaq has to be considered integral to the religious denomination in question and that the same is part of their personal law.
- I expressly endorse and re-iterate the law declared in Shamim Ara (another case in which triple talaq was declared invalid). What is held to be bad in the Holy Quran cannot be good in Shariat and, in that sense, what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.
Justices Rohinton F Nariman and UU Lalit
- It is clear that this form of Talaq (Talaq-ul-Biddat) is manifestly arbitrary in the sense that the marital tie can be broken capriciously and whimsically by a Muslim man without any attempt at reconciliation so as to save it. This form of Talaq must, therefore, be held to be violative of the fundamental right contained under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
- In our opinion, therefore, the 1937 Act, insofar as it seeks to recognize and enforce Triple Talaq, is within the meaning of the expression “laws in force” in Article 13(1) and must be struck down as being void.
The final order signed by the 5-judge Bench:
In view of the different opinions recorded, by a majority of 3:2, the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ – triple talaq is set aside.