“[B]y a majority of 3:2 the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ (triple talaq) is set aside”. With these prosaic words the Supreme Court has done away with a practice that had prevailed India for 1,400 years. Triple talaq originated in the second century after the advent of Islam and although considered as “a sinful form of divorce” it was recognized by a few Sunni schools, primarily the Hanafi sect.
The case of Sharaya Bano v Union of India & others, decided last month, is rightly acclaimed as a landmark ruling on the issue of gender discrimination against Muslim women, who had no safeguard against arbitrary divorce, resulting in denial of dignity and security. It is therefore important to consider the backdrop to this ruling and the legal issues that the Supreme Court had to grapple with.
The facts were simple. Sharaya Bano was divorced by her husband, Rizwan Ahmad, pronouncing “talaq, talaq, talaq” on 10 October 2015. She sought a declaration that the talaq-e-biddat pronounced by her husband was void ab initio and that section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 (Shariat Act), to that extent was unconstitutional.
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Sneha Jaisingh is a senior associate and Shreya Gupta is an associate at Bharucha & Partners.
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