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SC refers triple talaq case to 5-judge constitutional bench; hearing to begin May 11

The Supreme Court decided today that a five-judge constitution bench will rule on the constitutional validity of the practice of triple talaq, 'nikah halala' and polygamy among Muslims. The hearing will begin May 11.

The apex court indicated last month that it was strongly leaning toward a five-judge constitutional bench deciding on these issues, as they are to do with the interpretation of the India's founding document.

The case relates to a batch of petitions filed in the top court - including by the Centre - regarding whether divorce by saying 'talaq' three times is legal or whether it impinges on equal rights or in this case, women's rights, and whether freedom to practice religion - via the Muslim Personal Law for Islam - takes precedence over basic freedoms, among other things.

The Centre had earlier opposed the practice of triple talaq, 'nikah halala' and polygamy among Muslims and favoured a re-look on grounds like gender equality and secularism. 'Nikah halala' means a man cannot remarry a woman after triple talaq unless she has already consummated her marriage with another man and her new husband dies or divorces her.

The Muslim Personal Law Board has said that eliminating things like triple talaq 'are akin to rewriting the Quran and forcing Muslims to commit a crime.'

"The issues are very important. These issues cannot be scuttled," said a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar and that includes Justices NV Ramana and DV Chandrachud.

Last month, the bench made it clear to the parties concerned that it would not deal with the factual aspects of particular cases and would rather decide the legal issue.