By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA) - The Islamic practice of instant divorce was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The court voted by 3-2 against the tradition whereby a Muslim man can divorce his wife by saying the word “talaq” -- divorce -- three times, saying it was against the tenets of Islam.
India is one of the few countries where the “triple talaq” has remained in practice.
Instances of its use have increased in recent years as men divorced their wives via written letter, mobile phone text message and even Facebook.
Maneka Gandhi, minister for women in the New Delhi government, welcomed the court’s decision.
“It's a good judgement and it’s another step towards gender justice and gender equality,” she told reporters in the capital.
The case had been brought before the Supreme Court by five women divorced through the triple talaq and two rights groups.
The then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had presented the practice of instant divorce as a violation of a woman’s right to be treated equally.
One of the petitioners, Shayara Bano, who was instantly divorced in a letter from her husband while she was recovering from illness, called on the government to ban the practice as soon as possible in the wake of the court’s decision.
- Immediate ban
“It is a historic day for Muslim women,” she added. “I welcome this decision.”
India’s largest Islamic body, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said its legal committee would study the ruling.
“Having respected the Supreme Court's judgements in the past, today's judgement on triple talaq will also be considered by us,” executive member Zafaryab Jilani said.
“Our grievances and apprehensions, whether they have been addressed by the judges or not, can be said after seeing the judgement.
“What will happen to those Muslim women who, even after the judgement, will accept talaq? All the issues have to be addressed.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court called on the central government to immediately impose a six-month ban on triple talaq while it formulates legislation to be presented to parliament.
Three of the judges branded the system “un-Islamic, arbitrary and unconstitutional” while another said it was not a central part of Islam.
Following a six-day hearing in May, the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement.
At the time, the government had assured the court it would present a new law on divorce to reflect the court’s decision.
India does not have a homogeneous set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to everyone and while most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq it has persisted in among Indian Muslims.