New Delhi: Stating that the issue is of utmost importance, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected objections by senior advocates and fixed May 11 for commencement of hearing on pleas challenging the validity of triple talaq, 'nikah halala' and polygamy practices among Muslims in India.
"A five-judge Constitution Bench will sit during the summer vacation to examine the issue", the Supreme Court said even as senior lawyer Kapil Sibal objected to the top court's benches working during the summer vacation.
Rejecting Sibal's objection, Chief Justice Khehar said, "There are three important issues we are taking up during the vacation. These are matters pending and if you don't want us to take them up, then don't say huge pendency of cases in the Supreme Court."
Besides some wome who have been divorced on social media sites, a number of people, including women activists, have filed petitions in the Apex Court opposing triple talaq. But, the court had earlier said instead of looking at individual cases, it would take a call on whether practices like triple talaq and polygamy can be upheld under the right to religion.
On March 27, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) filed an affadavit in the Supreme Court asserting that the pleas challenging such practices among Muslims were not maintainable as the issues fell outside the realm of judiciary.
The board said there was a need for "judicial restraint" before going into constitutional interpretation of these unless such an exercise becomes unavoidable.
On its part, the Modi government in New Delhi had on October 7, 2016 opposed in the Supreme Court the practice of triple talaq, 'nikah halala' and polygamy among Muslims and favoured a relook on grounds like gender equality and secularism.
Even as the Supreme Court was yet to begin a hearing on the petitions against triple talaq, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) made it an election issue in the UP state election, promising the Muslim women to abolish the practice if it won the elections.
Differences over triple talaq dates back to the era of second Caliph Omar (RA) who was the first person to make it valid, though Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and first Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) were strictly opposed to it.
In recent years owing to the problems women faced due to the misuse of triple talaq by husbands, majority of Islamic countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia basing their decision on the ruling of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) abolished concurrent triple talaq in their respective countries.
Unlike triple talaq, there is consensus on second marriage as allowed in Islam under strict conditions.
As for "nikah halala" the way it has been legitimised by clerics in India is nowhere seen during the period of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and his caliphs.
Interestingly, while the Muslim personal law board keeps an adamant stand on the matter there are reports that some members, especially senior women members, are upset and want the board to change its stand.