Opposing vehemently the Muslim Personal Law Board’s support to practice of triple talaq, the Centre told the Supreme Court that this practice of divorce denies equal status and dignity to Muslim women, which is available under the Indian Constitution.
Gender equality is a Constitutional goal, and gender equality and the dignity of women are non-negotiable, it said.
Filing a 23-page written statement, the government said triple talaq is a patriarchal notion that impedes social democracy.
Allowing such practice would impact not only “women, but also have a ripple effect on the rest of the community”, preventing women from enjoying the liberties guaranteed to every citizen by a modern Constitution, it said.
Earlier, the CJI’s bench had asked all parties to submit their written submissions so that the Constitutional bench can hear the issue during court’s summer vacation starts from May 11 to July 2.
Freedom of religion is subject to fundamental rights and Constitution confers the right to practice, preach and propagate religion, but these are subject to Articles 14 and 15 that guarantee equality and non-discrimination.
It was submitted that the practice of polygamy is a social practice, rather than a religious one and, therefore, would not be protected under Article 25.
Seeking the court to decide the issue “whether under a secular Constitution, women, merely by virtue of their religious identity and/or the religion which they profess, can be relegated to a status significantly more vulnerable than their counterparts who profess any other faith, namely Hindus, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, etc. In other words, the fundamental question for determination by this Hon’ble Court 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 even Muslim countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and Tunisia etc have regulated their laws relating to divorce and in India, a secular and democratic country, the practice should not be allowed to go on.
The practices of talaq-e-bidat, nikah halala and polygamy are not compatible with India’s obligations under international treaties and covenants to which it is a signatory, the government said: “Being a founding member of the United Nations, India is bound by its charter, which is the first-ever international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a human right in its preamble, reaffirming ‘faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations - large and small’.”
Read the Written submissions here.