The Indian Constitution makes some concession for minority communities, religious and otherwise, alright, but it certainly does not say that it would be exercised to the detriment of individuals within the community. It allows every Indian a set of rights, as individuals, not as part of any larger group. Any conflict between the rights of the individual and the privileges of the community has to be viewed from the perspective of the former. The Allahabad High Court’s ruling on Thursday, which says that the practice of triple talaq violates the rights of Muslim women, is thus in perfect agreement with the spirit of our Constitution.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and some other Muslim organisations which have been aggressively defending triple talaq, citing the holy Quran, may not like the court’s judgment but it’s better they understood that the Indian Constitution makes itself very clear on the rights of individuals and no amount of creative interpretation of the concession to communities would change that. It is possible they would provide a communal spin to the judgement but the fact is Constitution is a neutral document. Its principles apply as much to Muslims as to Hindus and other communities.
In reaction to the Supreme Court’s observation on the issue earlier, the AIMPLB had said that the court was ‘trying to rewrite personal laws in the name of social reform’. Now, if the court did not come to protect the individual, then who would? And what is so wrong with social reform in the first place? Societies evolve by making continuous adjustments to emerging situations within and without. Forces of conservatism accommodate new views while trying their best to keep the core of the faith intact.
That the Muslim community in India has been a spectacular failure in evolving with the times has a lot to do with organisations like the AIMPLB, which do not even think it is ridiculous to openly defend polygamy and the practice of triple talaq. The trouble with the community has been the virtual silence – call it indifference if you please – of its intellectual class on the institutionalised injustice and unfairness within. The absence of debates inside the community on matters society and individual are curiously invisible. How come, for example, no one raised this question on triple talaq: If so many countries have changed to make it woman-friendly what is the problem of the AIMPLB with making a similar change in India?
With the community not ready to address their problems it is obvious that the aggrieved would move courts. The latter would not be guided by the laws of the community but the Indian Constitution. In this case, the community has no reason to cry foul. The organisations unhappy with the judgement have decided to approach the Supreme Court for justice. It is within their rights, but a better idea would be to sit back and introspect.
They cannot resist change forever – the access allowed to women inside Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai is a case in point. They also cannot afford to be in conflict with rights of individuals under the pretext of protecting faith forever. It is for their own survival that they need to be wiser.
First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:18 IST