Brides sit and wait for their turn during a Muslim mass wedding. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave
Brides sit and wait for their turn during a Muslim mass wedding. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

In a major boost for women’s rights, an Indian court on Thursday branded as “unconstitutional” the Islamic practice of divorcing a woman by saying the word “talaq” three times.

The form of instant divorce is cruel, demeaning, a violation of human rights and “impedes and drags India from becoming a nation,” the Allahaba High Court ruled.

“Muslim law, as applied in India, has taken a course contrary to the spirit of what the Prophet or the Holy Quran laid down and the same misconception vitiates the law dealing with the wife’s right to divorce,” said Justice Suneet Kumar who sat alone on the court bench.

“Divorce is permissible in Islam only in case of extreme emergency. When all efforts for effecting a reconciliation have failed, the parties may proceed to a dissolution of marriage by talaq or by khola,” Justice Suneet Kumar said.

“No (Muslim) personal law is above the Constitution,” the judge said.

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali of the All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board said they would study the order and may appeal against it.

He defended the practice of “triple talaq” saying it is a part of Islamic law. Personal law is an integral part of Islam and the two cannot be seen in isolation, he said.

However, the central government had informed the Supreme Court in October that “triple talaq” is not an essential practice in Islam.

Such a practice is unfair, discriminatory and unreasonable in a secular society. It stands in the way of gender justice, equality and dignity of women. Many Muslim countries have brought changes in the law to move with the times, it said.

Triple talaq is banned in more than 20 Muslim-majority countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Several political parties including the ruling BJP and Congress welcomed the court’s ruling.

Muslims, who are among the marginalized communities in India, constitute over 13% of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Literacy and employment rates of Muslim women are lower than the national average.

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