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16 May 2017

Centre's law offer divides Muslims

Anita Joshua, TT, New Delhi, May 15: The Muslim community was today divided over the Centre's statement in the Supreme Court that it would enact a law to govern marriages and divorces among Muslims if the instant triple talaq was outlawed.
Those opposing the instant talaq welcomed attorney-general Mukul Rohtagi's assurance that the government would not let a vacuum be created if the provision for instant divorce in Muslim personal law was struck down as unconstitutional.
But the hardliners felt vindicated, saying their worst fears had been confirmed.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind secretary-general Salim Engineer told this newspaper that no one supported the instant triple talaq, but added: "Our apprehension is that in the guise of banning the instant triple talaq, the government wants to take away our right of 'single' talaq."
He was referring to the talaq-e-ahsan (where talaq is pronounced just once but becomes effective only after a period of three months, at any time during which the husband can revoke the talaq) and talaq-e-hasan, a staggered divorce with three pronouncements of the talaq, also revocable at any time in between.
"This would amount to a direct infringement on our fundamental right. This would be nothing but an enforced civil code, an attempt to bring a uniform civil code through the backdoor," Engineer said.
Civil rights activist Javed Anand of the Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy welcomed the government's offer.
"If they go beyond that and enact a law also banning other forms of talaq provided in Islamic jurisprudence, then the government's intent will become clear," he said.
On why the government had not already enacted a law to replace the instant triple talaq, Javed, a trenchant critic of the Narendra Modi government, said it was a chicken-and-egg situation.
"If the BJP government had brought it (the law) earlier, there would have been an uproar suspecting its intent. Now that the lead has been taken by Muslim women, the court has brought the government in and opened this window."
Even previous Congress governments could theoretically have done this as the instant triple talaq, Javed said, is not a Quranic provision.
Javed pointed out that even if the instant triple talaq is done away with, it would not create a vacuum because other forms of divorce (talaq-e-ahsan and talaq-e-hasan) are available to Muslims.
Rohatgi's assurance was heartily welcomed by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, one of the petitioners in the case that has sought abolition of the instant talaq.
"We have always demanded a codified Muslim personal law just like other communities have laws," Zakia Soman of the Andolan said.
"It's the constitutional obligation of the government to provide us with legal protection. This should have happened long ago to enable Muslim women to get justice in matters of marriage and divorce."
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which does not want the courts or the government to interfere in the community's personal laws, went into a huddle planning for tomorrow's hearing in court.
A member of its women's wing, Asma Zehra, refused to comment on the premise that the matter is sub judice.

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