AT THE RECENT meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national executive in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pitch for ending the pernicious practice of triple talaq that deprives women subject to Muslim Personal Law of legal rights enjoyed by most women in India. His words were soon echoed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Those who are wont to see these voices as purely political will frame this issue differently. But the truth is that triple talaq has no place in a society that is run by a constitution. The practice has now reached a level where it mocks the rights of women. There are instances where triple talaq has been pronounced over WhatsApp and even through newspaper notices.
The custodian of Muslim Personal Law, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has reacted to these incidents by suggesting that those who ‘misuse’ triple talaq should be socially boycotted. But this is not just another social norm that needs to be decried. This is a practice that is prescribed by the community’s own divorce law and is at odds with any modern sense of justice. It is a bit late in the day to suggest social reform.
At the moment, the Supreme Court is hearing the matter and the Union Government too has filed an affidavit in which it has opposed the practice. Constitutionally, of course, the matter is of wider ambit. The issue is one of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for the country. The promise to enshrine a UCC is in the chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution. Because the issue is politically volatile, no ruling party or coalition before Modi came to power has been able to summon the courage to turn this promise into reality. There is no point in trying to frame the subject in communal versus secular terms: the issue is constitutional. If a government feels that it can deliver a promise in the Directive Principles, then it has the freedom to do so. Nor should recourse be taken to the argument that a UCC militates against the freedom of religion.
It will be ideal if the Government waits for the apex court to deliver its judgment and then proceeds towards formulating a UCC that ends practices like triple talaq. In the meantime, it should try and acquire best practices from across the world for incorporation into a future law.