The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Friday told the Supreme Court that "personal laws cannot be re-written in the name of social reforms".
Submitting its response in connection with the ongoing matter on the 'triple talaq' issue, the AIMPLB said, "Personal laws cannot be challenged as violative of Part III of the Constitution." The triple talaq is a provision granted to Muslim men under Muslim personal law. It gives them the right to divorce their wives by simply stating their intention three times orally.
In justifying its demand, the board made some shocking statements about women and their status within marriage.
"When serious discords develop in a marriage and husband wants to get rid of wife, legal compulsions and time consuming judicial process....in extreme cases husband may resort to illegal criminal ways of getting rid of her by murdering her. In such situations, the triple talaq is a better recourse," it told the apex court.
"Marriage is a contract in which both parties are not physically equal. Male is stronger and female is a weaker sex. Securing separation through court takes a long time deters prospects of remarriage," it added.
The AIMPLB further said that polygamy as a practice is not for gratifying men's lust, but it is a social need. It also said that Article 44 of the non-binding directive principles — which says that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code — is not enforceable by virtue of the fact that it is a directive.
"The Uniform Civil Code is a directive principle and not enforceable. The personal laws are protected by Article 25, 26 and 29 of the Constitution as they are acts done in pursuance of a religion," the board argued.
The apex court had last week issued a notice to the central government on the plea of a Muslim woman challenging the constitutional validity of 'triple talaq' to end a marriage.
The petitioner, Ishrat Jahan, has sought a declaration from the apex court, saying that Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, was unconstitutional as it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (equality), 15 (non-discrimination), 21 (life) and 25 (religion) of the Constitution.
In her petition, Jahan questioned whether an arbitrary and unilateral divorce through triple talaq can deprive the wife of her rights in her matrimonial home as well as her right to have the custody of her children.
This is not the first such type of petition that has been presented before the Supreme Court as Uttarakhand-based Shayara Banu and the Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh, through its president Farah Faiz, have raised similar queries. All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) President Shaista Ambar has also demanded that the triple talaq system be abolished.
At the last hearing in the Supreme Court in June, AIMPLB had pointed out an existing ruling which barred courts from examining the validity of personal law practices. At the time, advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for two NGOs, had pointed out that AIMPLB was referring to an old judgement given by the first Indian chief justice of the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court bench then said it had "an open mind on the issue", The Times of India reported.
On July 29, the apex court had favoured a wider debate on the petitions challenging the validity of the triple talaq. The Centre has also set up a high-level committee to review the status of women in India and it has recommended a ban on the practice of oral, unilateral and triple talaq and polygamy.
(Written with ANI reports)
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