New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Friday informed the Supreme Court that triple talaq form of divorce is not an essential religious practice in Islam.
In its affidavit in response to a batch of petitions questioning the validity of triple talaq, the Centre said that the validity of triple talaq and polygamy has to be seen in the light of gender justice, equality and dignity of women. It said women in India should not be denied their constitutional rights even as several Muslim countries have undergone extensive reforms.
It said practices like triple talaq are against the principles of equality and dignity enshrined in the Constitution and there is no reason that women in India should be denied their constitutional rights. The sanctity of triple talaq is completely misplaced in a secular country and is unfair, discriminatory and unreasonable.
It said “gender equality and the dignity of women are not negotiable” and pointed out that even theocratic states have undergone reforms in this area of law which reinforces that these practices cannot be considered an integral part of practice of Islam.
Talaq, right to life linked
“It is submitted that the issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy needs to be considered in the light of principles of gender justice and the overriding principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality,” the affidavit filed by Mukulita Vijayawargiya, additional secretary in the ministry of law and justice, said.
Responding to a batch of petitions including the one filed by Shayaro Bano challenging the validity of such practices among Muslims, the Centre first dealt with the right of gender equality under the Constitution.
“The fundamental question for determination is whether, in a secular democracy, religion can be a reason to deny equal status and dignity available to women under the Constitution,” it said.
Referring to constitutional principles, it said that “any practice by which women are left ‘socially, financially or emotionally vulnerable’ or subject to the whims and caprice of men-folk is incompatible with the letter and spirit of Article 14 and 15 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution”.
Linking the issue with the Right to Life and Personal Liberty, the Centre in its 29-page affidavit said “gender equality and the dignity of the women are non-negotiable, overarching constitutional value and can brook no compromise.
“These rights are necessary in letter and in spirit not only to realise the aspirations of every individual woman who is an equal citizen of this country but also for the larger well-being of the society and progress of the nation, one half of which is made up by women”.
The affidavit said women must be made equal participants in the development of the world’s largest democracy and any practice, which denuded their status as citizens due to religion, is an “impediment” in achieving the larger goal.
It also referred to various judgments to buttress the point that fundamental rights like Right to Equality and life with dignity formed part of the basic structure of the Constitution and hence were non-negotiable....