Triple Talaq: SC issues notice to Centre on plea against new law

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine the validity of a newly enacted law which makes the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq among Muslims a punishable offense entailing imprisonment of up to three years.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana and Ajay Rastogi issued notice the Centre on a batch of petitions which has sought to declare The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 as ‘unconstitutional’ on grounds that it allegedly violates the provisions of the Constitution.

“We will examine this,” the bench told senior advocate Salman Khurshid, who was appearing for one of the petitioners.
Khurshid told the bench that there were many dimensions, including making the practice a punishable offense and jail term of up to three years, which was required to be examined by the top court.

It may be noted that the petition was filed on Thursday by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind.

President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Act which makes ‘talaq-e-biddat’ or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce pronounced by a Muslim husband void and illegal.

Earlier this month, ‘Samastha Kerala Jamiathul Ulema’, a religious organisation of Sunni Muslim scholars and clerics in Kerala, had also moved the apex court seeking to declare the newly enacted law as ‘unconstitutional’.

WHAT THE PLEA SAYS

“However, the impugned Act criminalises the act of pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband and makes it a cognizable offence, without appreciating that such pronouncement had already been declared unconstitutional and amounted to nullity in the eyes of law,” the plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind said.

Referring to the provision of the Act which stipulates punishment of up to three years jail along with fine, the plea said it is an ‘ill-conceived provision which imposes excessive and disproportionate punishment.’

It claimed that ‘criminalising a mode of divorce in one particular religion while keeping the subject of marriage and divorce in other religions only within the purview of civil law, also leads to discrimination, which is not in conformity with the mandate of Article 15’.

Article 15 of the Constitution deals with prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

The plea said that punishment prescribed under the Act ‘is not only disproportionate but extremely excessive and stringent’.

Referring to other offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including rioting, bribery and causing death by negligence, the plea said that lesser punishment has been prescribed for many offences ‘which are far graver’.

It said that section 7 of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 makes the pronouncement of talaq, having the effect of instantaneous divorce, a cognisable and a non-bailable offence.

It said pronouncement of ‘triple talaq’ is considered invalid in several Islamic countries but no punishment has been prescribed for this.

The Act makes it illegal to pronounce talaq three times — spoken, written or through SMS or WhatsApp or any other electronic chat — in one sitting.

“Any pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal,” the law says.