Friday, April 28, 2017

India's Supreme Court To Hear Constitutional Challenge To Personal Status Laws

NewsClick yesterday carried a lengthy article surveying the background and importance of the Shayara Bano case which will be heard by a 5-judge panel of India's Supreme Court next month.  At issue is whether laws involving personal status which are governed in India by separate legal codes for different religious groups are subject to the fundamental rights protections of India's Constitution.  In this case, the issue is whether Muslim divorce through "Triple Talaq", a practice invoked pursuant to the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act (1937), violates women's rights to equality, life and dignity. The article summarizes in part:
In the triple talaq case the Supreme Court is confronted with this question yet again and it remains to be seen if they will decide the question or dodge it by saying that Islam itself does not recognize triple talaq and hence, there is no need to decide the larger issue of whether personal laws are amenable to constitutional checks and challenges. What is at stake is not just Muslim Personal Law but all laws governing marriage and divorce, including Hindu Law. Will the ruling party that is moving towards a Hindutva State, allow such a challenge is the question. For now the Union of India has committed itself to the challenge but may remain content with the striking down on the ground that it is un-Islamic as some groups have argued. There is a lot riding on this case, not just talaq. The issues are fundamental to constitutional gender justice for all women.