“I am happy with the Supreme Court judgement because no other girl will meet the same fate anymore” were the words of Bobby Khatun of Khidderpore, Kolkata when the Supreme Court (SC) pronounced its verdict of instant triple talaq as unconstitutional. Bobby’s life turned upside down when in 2015, a year after her marriage, her husband sent her pictures of the photocopies of their divorce document over Whatsapp and declared a divorce. Bobby’s story does not stand in isolation in the Indian context. Several women in India have been victims of instant triple talaq, where a simple utterance or written ‘talaq’ three times by the husband in an instance means the dissolution of the contract of marriage. The sole right to assert divorce lies with the husband.
This narrative changed on August 22 with the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement declaring instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) for violating the norms of the Indian Constitution. Three judges out of the five member bench of the apex court held that the Islamic practice breached the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution for Muslim women in the country.
However, under Muslim law, instant triple talaq is not the only norm of divorce that exists. The practice of talaq-ul-sunnat wherein the once the husband pronounces divorce, the wife has to observe a three-month iddat period covering 90 days or three menstrual cycles However, if the period of iddat expires and the husband does not revoke the talaq, the divorce becomes irrevocable and final.
This Islamic practice has not been challenged by the very same court, which puts forth the argument of the right to equality for the Muslim women. Even under talaq-ul-sunnat, the right to ask for divorce solely remains with the male in the marriage. The SC did not touch upon this practice of talaq and argued that it was protected under Article 25(1) of the Constitution, which states that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience, and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion”.
Following the divorce, in both cases the only sufferer is woman. The Supreme Court’s decision may have brought relief; however, women are still not free of limitations and dire consequences.