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Indian Case Summary

Shayara Bano vs Union Of India And Ors. Ministry Of … on 22 August, 2017 – Case Summary

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In the case of Shayara Bano vs Union of India and others, a landmark judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court of India on 22nd August 2017. The case was a significant milestone in the fight for women’s rights in India, particularly for Muslim women, as it addressed the controversial practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ or ‘triple talaq’.

Facts of the Case

Shayara Bano, the petitioner, challenged the divorce pronounced by her husband, Rizwan Ahmad, on 10th October 2015. In his declaration, Ahmad stated, “I gave ‘talak, talak, talak’, hence like this I divorce from you from my wife. From this date there is no relation of husband and wife. From today I am ‘haraam’, and I have become ‘naamharram’. In future you are free for using your life.” This divorce was pronounced before two witnesses, Mohammed Yaseen and Ayaaz Ahmad.

Bano sought a declaration that the ‘talaq-e-biddat’ pronounced by her husband be declared void ab initio. She contended that such a divorce, which abruptly, unilaterally, and irrevocably terminates the ties of matrimony, purportedly under Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, be declared unconstitutional. She also argued that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens in India, under Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution.

Issues Raised

The case raised several complex issues, including whether ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is a part of ‘Shariat’ (Muslim ‘personal law’), whether it can be treated as a “rule of decision” under the Shariat Act, and whether it violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The petitioner also questioned whether the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ can be protected under the rights granted to religious denominations under Articles 25(1), 26(b), and 29 of the Constitution.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is neither recognized by the Quran nor by ‘hadith’, and as such, cannot be considered sacrosanct to the Muslim religion. The court also noted that ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is denounced internationally, and a large number of Muslim theocratic countries have forbidden the practice.

The court further noted that ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is irrevocable at the very moment it is pronounced, unlike the other two categories of ‘talaq’ (‘talaq-e-ahsan’ and ‘talaq-e-hasan’), which are revocable. The court also observed that even amongst Muslims, ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is considered sinful.

In conclusion, the court decided to limit the consideration to ‘talaq-e-biddat’ – triple talaq. Other questions raised in the connected writ petitions, such as polygamy and ‘halala’ (-and other allied matters), were to be dealt with separately. The determination of the present controversy, however, may coincidentally render an answer even to the connected issues.

This case was a significant step towards the protection of women’s rights in India, particularly for Muslim women, and it sparked a nationwide debate on the need for a uniform civil code.