As the triple talaq hearing progresses in the Supreme Court, everyone seems to be arguing for the same reform. That reform is inevitable is clear to all parties, but who will reach the finish line first is something only the Supreme Court’s judgement, when it comes, can tell. Going by the comments of the judges hearing the arguments, the bench appears to be trying to work out the correct constitutional scheme in which it can pass an iron-clad judgement.
Talaq-e-bidat (instant divorce, better known as triple talaq) enables the husband to play both petitioner and judge and terminate the marriage merely by uttering the word for divorce thrice in quick succession—much like a judge in a Bollywood courtroom drama bangs the gavel and says, “Order! Order! Order!”
The triple talaq verdict, when it comes, is likely to be a historic judgement by the the five-judge constitution bench under Chief Justice of India (CJI) J.S. Khehar, who retires this August. As the bench has been hearing the case through the court vacation, some senior counsel reportedly had to cancel their holiday plans and stay back in Delhi. And after six days of listening to submissions by lawyers for Uttarakhand-based petitioner Shayara Bano, the Centre and Muslim organisations led by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on May 18, the bench reserved the order.
It was in 2015, while hearing a case on the Hindu Succession Act, that Justices Anil Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel noted Muslim women had no safeguard against arbitrary, unilateral divorce by their husbands. A suo motu notice to the attorney-general (A-G) opened the floodgates for many Muslim organisations and women, starting with Shayara Bano, who had been challenging the custom protected by personal law, citing gender- and religion-based discrimination. Earlier, in 2012,...