7 Years After Banning Triple Talaq, MP’s Sharia Court Reacts to SC
Judges of MP’s only Sharia Court welcome triple talaq verdict but are apprehensive about legislation.
Long before the Supreme Court’s historic judgment holding triple talaq arbitrary and unconstitutional, the judges of Madhya Pradesh’s Sharia court had put an end to hearing cases related to the unsavoury practice, restricting themselves to only single talaq cases since 2010.
Welcoming the SC’s 3-2 verdict of 22 August, the Shariat court (Dar-ul-Qaza) Chief Judge Mushtaq Ali Nadvi said: “I have often opposed the practice of instant talaq and urged the parties to follow Shariat laws related to nikah and talaq,” adding that the courts “banned seven years ago what the SC has done today”.
Dar-ul-Qaza: Only Sharia Court in Madhya Pradesh
Emphasising that he “stands by” the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Nadvi said that he would abide by the decisions that this body takes in the course of the next week or so.
Dar-ul-Qaza is the only Sharia court in Madhya Pradesh, run by the Bhopal Masjid Committee, which hears, resolves and delivers judgements on matrimonial disputes of the Muslim community but it does not force the parties to follow its pronouncements.
The court is presided over by two judges – Ali Nadvi and Sayed Babar Hussain Nadvi. They hear disputes almost daily and try to resolve the cases in the presence of both parties (husband and wife) and issue judgments.
Should Parliament Step In?
When asked whether Parliament should legislate a law to do away with triple talaq, Ali Nadvi said:
Parliament is free to make laws on any subject and several Bills remain pending in both Houses, but the central government has been targeting a single community and has been raking up religious issues to get political mileage.Mushtaq Ali Nadvi, Chief Judge, Sharia court (Dar-ul-Qaza)
These moves, Ali Nadvi said, are against the spirit of Article 25 of the Constitution, which says that “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.”
If the government is willing to make laws for triple talaq or talaq then I urge them to also frame laws for nikah because people mould the laws according to their convenience.Mushtaq Ali Nadvi, Chief Judge, Sharia court (Dar-ul-Qaza)
While taking dowry and expenses incurred by a bride’s family are prohibited, people continue to follow these illegal practices, Ali Nadvi said.
Shouldn’t India Ban Triple Talaq?
Responding to the question that why India shouldn’t follow other Islamic countries which have banned the retrograde practice of triple talaq, both judges said that India cannot be compared with other countries, especially when “Muslims’ culture, living standards and laws are different here. Muslims constitute a minority in India while they are a majority in the Arab states.”
Besides, the two judges said that most Indian Muslims follow Hanafi tenets according to which repeating talaq thrice automatically leads to legal divorce. “On the other hand, Arabs follow the Ahl-e-hadith,” the judges explained, adding that there are “differences” in the manner in which weddings are conducted and prayers offered by Indian Muslims. “This issue of triple talaq reflects our internal conflicts that have existed for centuries,” they said.
Over the broader issue of uplifting the lot of Muslim women and their emancipation, Hussain Nadvi said:
If the government really wants to usher in reforms, it should turn its focus on women who are forced to live in old-age homes and religious places as their children refused to support them. This is happening on a huge scale, but nothing is being done to stop such practices.Sayed Babar Hussain Nadvi, Judge, Dar-ul-Qaza
Why Hearing Triple Talaq Cases Stopped
According to Sharia laws, save in certain cases, a unilateral decision to end a marriage is not applicable. Divorce can only be effected after the approval of both the parties. “But in triple talaq cases, mostly, the other party’s chair remains vacant despite several notices to her to attend,” said Ali Nadvi who is also referred to as the Shahr-e-Qazi.
Informal Justice Delivery Systems
In 2009, a resident of Jabalpur filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, alleging that since the Dar-ul-Qazas and the Dar-ul-Ifta, under the Bhopal Masjid Committee, had “illegally declared” talaq in a particular case, their pronouncements should be declared unconstitutional and the Sharia court judges restrained from adjudicating matrimonial disputes.
The Jabalpur Bench took cognisance of the PIL and issued a notice to the Dar-ul-Qaza on 13 January 2010, ordering that the judge stop hearing marital disputes including talaq, khula and maintenance, till the court took a final decision.
On 14 August 2012, the court ordered that Dar-ul-Qaza should not issue any fatwa in cases related to conciliation, mediation and arbitration between parties in marital disputes. “After the decision, the media twisted the facts of the case and propagated a false message which affected our reputation,” Ali Nadvi said.
Accordingly, the Masjid Committee preferred a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court, which was admitted.
The Bench added that the institutions functioned as “informal justice delivery systems” that amicably settled disputes between parties in the light of the “book of Allah” and “sunnat of the Prophet”.
‘We Don’t Accept Triple Talaq Cases’
To drive home their point, the high court judges said that the institutions represented “alternative dispute resolution mechanisms” which settled disputes outside the court.
The Justice Lodha-led Bench said for good measure that a fatwa was an experts’ opinion which influences Muslims, but parties to a dispute could either accept, ignore or reject it. Besides, the Bench held that Shariat courts had no right or power to enforce fatwas and if they did so, it would be illegal.
Earlier, we would rarely entertain unilateral decisions involving triple talaq but after a few cases adjudicated by the Supreme Court in the past, we would take decisions in the presence of both the parties. And since the second party (the wife) would not appear before us, we would cajole the two parties to approach the district court.Mushtaq Ali Nadvi, Chief Judge, Shariat court (Dar-ul-Qaza)
“Now it is an unwritten rule in our court that we don’t accept triple talaq cases,” Ali Nadvi added.
(The writer is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist. He can be reached @MallickKakvi.)
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