NEW DELHI: Making its strongest pitch against triple talaq in the Supreme Court, the Centre on Wednesday contested the arguments presented before the top court to let the practice of allowing Muslim men to get instant divorce continue.
The government's top law officer Mukul Rohatgi said triple talaq was not an essential part of Islam and it could not be allowed to continue by the court, just because it had been in practice for 1,400 years. Can anyone say that we allow human sacrifice just because it was practised earlier, Mr Rohatgi argued.
Attorney General Rohatgi also rejected suggestions from the Muslim law board counsel Kapil Sibal that the court should adopt a hands-off approach because it would amount to the majority forcing its views on the minority community.
"It is a tussle between haves and have-nots within the system. It is intra-community struggle between men and women because men are more resourceful, earner and educated," he said, pleading with the top court to step in and put a final end to the practice.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court bench that is sitting in judgment of triple talaq on Wednesday wondered if it would be possible to give Muslim brides the option to say no to their prospective husband divorcing them by uttering the words, talaq, thrice, at the time of their marriage.
The five-judge bench of the top court has been holding daily hearings since last week to decide if the practice of instant divorce was intrinsic to Islam and should be allowed to continue, or should be struck down. At one point, the court did observe that it was the "worst form" of dissolution of marriage.
"Is it possible that Muslim women are given an option to say 'no' to triple talaq at the time of execution of nikahnama (Islamic marriage contract)," asked Chief Justice of India JS Khehar who heads the bench that also comprises Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman, UU Lalit and Abdul Nazeer.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is representing All India Muslim Personal Law Board, welcomed the suggestion. But there were questions if the Qazi, or the religious court, would be bound by the law board's directive to give brides this choice at the ground level.
Justice Khehar, however, quickly asked the counsel to "not infer anything" from the suggestion; the court was just exploring various possibilities.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which had started out yesterday defending the 1,400-year-old practice that it insisted was a matter of faith, did concede towards the end of the day, that it was admittedly an undesirable practice but the community should take the first step.
In court on Wednesday, Mr Sibal pulled out a resolution passed by the board that called triple talaq a sin and asked the community to boycott the person who invokes it. He, however, urged the court not to intervene in the practice, saying triple talaq had been made out to be something as if "every member of the community wakes up in the morning and does it (divorces his wife)".