Displeasure expressed over government's attack on personal law of Muslims
Even while claiming to respect the August 22 verdict of the Supreme Court’s constitution bench, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has chosen to stick to its stand that though sinful instant triple talaq remains valid in Shariah. By a 3:2 majority judgment, the 5-member constitutional bench had declared the Muslim practice of instant divorce as both “un-Quranic” and “bad in law”.
The Board’s response was made clear at its executive committee meeting of the AIMPLB in Bhopal on Sunday. This is the first meeting of the Board’s executive committee after the apex court’s verdict.
During informal discussions a strong view emerged that seeking a review of the apex court’s verdict was risky. A new chief justice has taken over and there was a likelihood of other issues like nikah halala and polygamy being included in the hearing. In view of the apprehensions, there was no formal discussion on the review question.
The Board accused the Union government of targeting Muslim personal law and welcomed the 3:2 verdict of the constitutional bench in favour of personal laws being an integral part of religious freedom which in turn was a guaranteed fundamental right.
The executive committee resolved to appoint a special committee comprising of senior religious scholars and lawyers to examine the apex court’s order and identify inconsistencies within it vis-à-vis the Shariah.
Board member Zafaryab Jeelani said the Board has consistently maintained that instant triple talaq is an undesirable practice and that the Board’s ongoing campaign to educate Muslims will continue. He added that an appeal has been issued to qazis across India to advice couples in this regard during the nikaah ceremony and “if possible” to incorporate an appropriate clause in the nikahnama.
A statement issued by the Board stated: “The government had laid bare its intention in the form of the Attorney General’s submissions in the Hon’ble Supreme Court that all forms of dissolution of marriages without intervention of the court should be declared as unconstitutional. We register our displeasure and consider it as attack on personal law of Muslims. This stand of the present government is contrary to the protection guaranteed by the Constitution of India. We make [a] categorical statement that the community cannot and shall not tolerate such attack on personal law of Muslim community.”
A longtime Board member Kamal Farouqui was quick to tell the media that the AIMPLB did not believe in taking issues to the street and adopt a confrontationist stand. It may be recalled, however, that taking to the streets and adopting an aggressive posture is precisely how the Board had reacted to the apex court’s verdict in the Shah Bano case in 1986. The all-India agitation had continued until the then Union government headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi bowed to the Muslim demand for a separate law for divorced Muslim women.
On the issue of seeking a review, one Board member made some interesting remarks while talking to the Indian Express. He said: “There is a saying in Urdu, ‘Namaz bakshwane gaye they, roze gale padh gaye (Had gone to seek exemption from namaz, ended up being saddled with roza)’. Things have changed since the last order, there is a new CJI [Chief Justice of India], there will be a new Bench looking at it. What if they do not feel the same way about personal laws? What if they want to examine other practices like polygamy, nikah halala etc, like the original two-judge Bench had wanted examined? We would end up opening more fronts than we would like to. That is why the review petition never came up in the executive committee.”
The Babri Masjid case pending before the Supreme Court was also discussed at the executive committee meeting. While reiterating its earlier stand of respecting the apex court’s verdict whatever it might be, the Board expressed surprise at the court’s decision for a day-to-day hearing of the matter in December.