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9-min read

More Than Women, Triple Talaq Denies Men Their Rights: Salman Khursid

Those who think talaq is unilateral are wrong because under Shariah women can also seek divorce; they are entitled to what is known as ‘Khula’. Therefore, the difference in the positions of man and woman, vis-à-vis the divorce is only marginal. In fact, no other law in the world is as progressive as this law. You simply can’t run it down.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:February 21, 2018, 10:44 AM IST
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More Than Women, Triple Talaq Denies Men Their Rights: Salman Khursid
File photo of Salman Khurshid

New Delhi: Having witnessed firsthand the proceedings in Supreme Court of the Triple Talaq case win, which he also intervened as Amicus Curiae, Congress leader and senior advocate Salman Khurshid has a lot to say on the issue. And Khurshid does not hide the fact that his own views on instant triple talaq have sometimes differed with his colleagues in the party.

In his book ‘Triple Talaq: Examining Faith’, published by Oxford University Press, Khurshid doesn’t hold back differences he had with his fellow party member and lawyer Kapil Sibal on the issue. “But now that the book is out, I hope that it will be read carefully by my colleagues at the party,” Khurshid told News18 during an interview. Copies of Khurshid’s book lie scattered across his office on Ferozshah Road.

In the interview Khurshid claims that Triple Talaq issue was an attempt to “demonise Islam and Muslims”. He also claims that those who think that the judgment brought the country closer to Uniform Civil Code were mistaken, comments on the unrest within Supreme Court, and says Rahul Gandhi is without a doubt the party’s face and nominee for PM’s chair in 2019.

The former foreign affairs minister also talks about the expanding Chinese influence in and around the Indian subcontinent and claims that India’s foreign policy under this government has been high on “bluster”.

Why did you feel the need to write this book?

Everybody is seemingly interested in the subject, but I don't know of anyone who really understands triple talaq. If clerics or people generally familiar with Shariah claim to understand the issue, in what manner do they understand is unclear. This is what I felt based on what they ask their lawyers to represent in court. I felt that the arguments put forth in court were vastly inadequate and actually accentuated and consolidated the position that people unfairly have about Islam.

Also, people have to ask themselves, whether they’re arguing against talaq or triple talaq. Those who think talaq is unilateral are wrong because under Shariah women can also seek divorce; they are entitled to what is known as ‘Khula’. Therefore, the difference in the positions of man and woman, vis-à-vis the divorce is only marginal. In fact, no other law in the world is as progressive as this law. You simply can’t run it down.

As far as triple talaq is concerned, it denies the man the right to take back divorce. The woman has all her rights. Only denial is to the man, he can’t undo the talaq. That's a difference without a distinction.

We're all against triple talaq as it is anti-Islamic but for people to see this from a very one-sided and biased manner is quite unfair.

In your book and talks you’ve given on it, you claim that the number of divorces through triple talaq is not known. You’ve suggested that it is a tiny proportion of the actual divorces under Shariah. Are you then suggesting that a mountain was made of a molehill? That it did not require a debate?

A debate should be had on this and on any other issue. One shouldn’t run away from debates. But what happened in case of triple talaq was clearly an attempt to demonise Islam and Muslims. I think, therefore, it to be the duty of Muslims and non-Muslims to put truth forward and then judge the case on its merits. There should then certainly be a debate on how this system compare with any other system in the country does.

When you say that a man loses nothing but his right to undo a triple talaq divorce, aren’t you ignoring the travails of the other gender - the most popular argument against triple talaq? Isn’t a unilateral and immediate end to a woman's married life, an instantaneous loss of 'home', cruel and worthy of reform?

Whatever the woman gets from one talaq, she will have through triple talaq. What is her problem with triple talaq? If you say that instant nature of the talaq is the problem then please say so specifically. The critics should say that we don’t want to do away with triple talaq but just want a right to reconsider it, and then you'll be supporting Islam. You can be critical of triple talaq by supporting Islam and you can be critical of it by opposing Islam. Now what do you think should be done?

Did you put such a suggestion to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, who through your book seemed to be inflexible in its approach?

They were inflexible but they have finally given in. They say that they will now issue a ‘nikahnama’ in which triple talaq will not be allowed. They changed when they realised that the judgment was going against them.

One of the main arguments you make in the book is that the verdict in case of Triple Talaq is not in any way a step forward towards Uniform Civil Code, a project BJP is very keen about. But that was not a view held by a majority.

Yes, a lot of people on both sides of the issue believe that this was a minor victory towards achieving Uniform Civil Code, and I said no, this is not an argument in favour of Uniform Civil Code. It is an argument in favour of diversity because all it is doing is preserving diversity in its true form. Those who are making a case for uniformity are wasting their time.

You accept that there were differences among the Congress members on this issue? You were opposed to the idea of making triple talaq a criminal offence. But Congress supported the Triple Talaq bill when it was floated in Lok Sabha only to change its stance when it came up for discussion in Rajya Sabha. What changed? Did your view prevail on the party finally? Did you have a word with your party’s high command?

I certainly hope so. People thought we were opposing it for opposition’s sake. But I argued that the bill was nothing but an attempt to interfere in family life not just in Islam alone. Bringing criminality in was not right.

My question was that if after Supreme Court judgment there is not triple talaq in existence, what were you punishing people for? I was called by the high command when the issue first came up but after that we haven't really discussed it in great detail. But now that the book is out this is an offer to my colleagues.

So why doesn’t the Congress spell out its policy on triple talaq explicitly?

I'm not certain. As a party we have to operate in a certain context. This is an issue on which the opposition can so easily be misunderstood. But I do hope that if nothing else, my book will be read carefully by my colleagues at congress. That is all I have to offer on it.

Where do you think the triple talaq issue will go from here?

Well the BJP is on its way towards getting a majority in Rajya Sabha as well. So ultimately it may have the strength to pass it. But it will go to Supreme Court again. Whatever form they pass the bill in, it will undoubtedly go to Supreme Court. Ultimately the last word on it will be the Supreme Court’s.

So all this discussion and debate on the issue was an exercise in political optics?

It is nothing but political optics. That's the right phrase. And pretending that this bill has the support of 50% Muslim population is completely wrong.

Around a month ago former Parliamentarian Sitaram Yechury had suggested moving an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India. But the proposal doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. What’s your view and that of the Congress on this whole episode?

As per my own knowledge, no serious thought was given to the proposal of impeachment. Exactly who is talking about it and who is in consultation I don't know. There are problems in Supreme Court and a very thoughtful collaborative effort is required. We don't know the entire story. There must have been a good enough reason for it. But I do hope that court will find solution for itself.

And I don’t think things like impeachment are topics on which one should rush. Institutions have an organic way of resolving and moderating themselves and I think we should allow that natural process to take over.

In the upcoming elections do you think triple talaq will be an issue?

It's a dead issue. They'll waste their time and words on it if they continue arguing about it. Besides, tthey have a lot of things to answer. You can't tell a hungry man that we finished triple talaq, because he'll be asking for food just as you can't give the same speech to the unemployed youth of the country.

How important were the results of Gujarat assembly polls and Rajasthan bypolls for the party?

Every result is important and Gujarat has shown that things are changing. I wish they had changed more. But in terms of clear assessments, the winds are changing direction. We also now have a new leader now who's working very very hard with his team which will soon be in place. We hope to see some good results.

Will Rahul Gandhi be the face of the party and its Prime Ministerial candidate for 2019 general polls?

Yes of course there is no doubt about it, as far as we're concerned that's what it is, but if it's a coalition then…we it’s a coalition.

There has been some criticism of India’s foreign policy off late. Some have argued that India has ceded a lot of space in SAARC region at least to China. As the former foreign minister how do you analyse the situation?

To be fair to government we can’t expect to have a China-free zone around india. China has a lot of resources, intent, ambitions, and clear policy in this region. It will be shortsighted to expect that those ambitions will not find expressions at appropriate places. But at the same time I think our foreign ministry should have been a little more pragmatic and handled the situation a little better, as I believe we did when we were in power.

There is a lot of wishful thinking in this government's foreign policy, the results of which are beginning in show - in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, in our handling of Pakistan and even beyond, in countries like Afghanistan. We have been sadly very unsuccessful perusing subtleties in foreign policy. A country’s foreign policy is more than just bluster.

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