Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said that the practice of “triple talaq” will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the right to live with dignity.
“Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant and the institution of ‘triple talaq’, therefore, will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the right to live with dignity. Needless to say that the same yardstick would be applicable to all other personal laws,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
Noting that the issue with regard to the constitutional validity of “triple talaq” is distinct from the Uniform Civil Code, the Union Finance Minister, who has also been one of the leading senior counsel at the Supreme Court, said that the academic debate with regard to the Uniform Civil Code can go on before the Law Commission.
“The constitutional framers had expressed a hope in the Directive Principles of State Policy that the State would endeavour to have a Uniform Civil Law,” he said and added, “The question to be answered is that assuming that each community has its separate personal law, should not those personal laws be constitutionally compliant?”
Jaitley also accused previous governments of shying away from taking a categorical stand that personal laws must comply with fundamental rights.
“The present government has taken a clear position,” he said.
Jaitley said that on more occasions than one, the Supreme Court has enquired from the government its stand on the issue.
“The governments have repeatedly told both the court and the parliament that personal laws are ordinarily amended after detailed consultations with affected stakeholders,” he said.
Jaitley said there is a fundamental distinction between religious practices, rituals and civil rights.
“Religious functions associated with birth, adoption, succession, marriage, death, can all be conducted through rituals and customs as per existing religious practices. Should rights emanating from birth, adoption, succession, marriage, divorce etc. be guided by religion or by constitutional guarantees?”
“Can there be inequality or compromise with human dignity in any of these matters? Some people may hold a conservative, if not obsolete, view that personal laws need not be constitutionally compliant,” he said.
He said that as communities have progressed, there is a greater realisation with regard to gender equality.
“All citizens, more particularly women, have a right to live with dignity. Should personal laws which impact the life of every citizen be in conformity with these constitutional values of equality and the Right to Live with Dignity?”
“A conservative view found judicial support over six decades ago that personal laws could be inconsistent with personal guarantees. Today it may be difficult to sustain that proposition. The Government’s affidavit in the triple talaq case recognises this evolution,” he added.
Citing various reforms made by previous governments within the personal laws of various communities, Jaitley said, “Reforming the personal laws, even if there is no uniformity, is an ongoing process. With passage of time, several provisions became obsolete, archaic and even got rusted. Governments, legislatures and communities have to respond to the need for a change.”