India court reviews Islamic instant divorce

NEW DELHI • India's Supreme Court yesterday formally opened a hearing on the controversial Islamic practice of instant divorce.

The country's top court said it will determine whether the practice, known as triple talaq, is part of the fundamental right to religion of the Muslim community.

"If we come to a conclusion that triple talaq is part of (the) fundamental right to religion, we will not interfere," the apex court said, according to the Times of India. "We will also determine whether triple talaq is sacramental and whether it can be enforced as a fundamental right."

India is one of a handful of countries in the world where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times. Activists say the practice discriminates against women.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thrown his weight behind triple talaq reform, reported the Hindustan Times, saying it was his administration's duty to ensure the rights of Muslim women were upheld.

Many Muslim groups, however, oppose the court's intervention in their religious matters. A proposal by the government to replace this form of oral divorce, they argued, would discriminate against them.

According to the BBC, the opposing sides have been given three days each to argue their cases before a multi-faith bench of judges: a Hindu, a Sikh, a Christian, a Zoroastrian and a Muslim. The hearing will end by May 19, and a judgment on the constitutional validity of triple talaq is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance, reported the Hindustan Times. While the Hindu law overhaul began in the 1950s, activists have long argued that Muslim personal law remains mostly unchanged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'India court reviews Islamic instant divorce'. Print Edition | Subscribe