Moving out of the shadows, from silence to assertion


  • A Talaq-e-Hasan petition filed by a Ghaziabad-based woman, seeking to make the divorce pronounced by the husband at an interval of at least a month extra-judicial, was in the limelight recently when the Supreme Court (SC) observed that the practice of Talaq-e-Hasan or divorce pronounced to the wife once a month for three months is “not so improper”.
  • SC also brought to the counsel’s notice the possibility of exploring divorce through mubarat or mutual consent. The judges referred to the option of khula, or a Muslim woman’s right to divorce as well. The Court’s observation continues the trend of the judiciary taking into cognisance the rights available to a Muslim couple to dissolve an unhappy marriage..
  • It also marks the increasing propensity of Muslim women to stand up for their rights in marriage or otherwise, a clear departure from times when women left the husband’s house in silence. Indeed, more and more Muslim women are now approaching various courts, including Darul Qaza or shariah courts, for redress of marital grievances.

Triple talaq:

  • Parliament enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act , 2019, thereby criminalizing the practice of instant Triple Talaq.
  • The Supreme Court in Shayara Bano case (2017) had declared the practise of Triple Talaq (talaq-e-biddat) as unconstitutional.
Triple Talaq Act:Any pronouncement of “talaq” by a Muslim husband to his wife in any manner, spoken or written, will be void and illegal.Any Muslim husband who communicates the “talaq” orally or in writing may face punishment up to three years in jail. The punishment may be also extended.If a Muslim man pronounces “talaq” to his wife, then the woman and her children are entitled to receive an allowance for subsistence. Such an amount can be determined by a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class.A Muslim woman is entitled to the custody of her minor children even if her husband has pronounced “talaq” to her.The offence is also compoundable (i.e. the parties may arrive at a compromise), if the Muslim woman insists for the same and the Magistrates allows certain terms and conditions which he may determine.A person accused of this offence cannot be granted bail unless an application is filed by the accused after a hearing in the presence of the Muslim woman (on whom talaq is pronounced) is conducted and the Magistrate is satisfied with the reasonable grounds for granting bail.


  • While the widely-acclaimed invalidation of instant triple talaq by a five-judge Bench of the Court, in 2017, is well documented, there was a Kerala High Court judgment of 2021 which upheld the validity of khula.
  • The court called khula, “the form of divorce conferred upon the wife similar to talaq conferred upon the husband”. Incidentally, there are more cases of khula in Darul Qazas or shariah courts than those of instant triple talaq, post the 2017 verdict, according to a rough estimate.
  • In other words, greater awareness of their rights is seeing more and more Muslim women walking out of an abusive marriage, even opting for khula.
  • While much has been happening in the judicial fora when it comes to Muslim women’s rights, a silent churning is also going on within the Muslim community in India.

Hijab row:

  • Recently, six students were banned from entering a college in Karnataka’s Udupi district for wearing a hijab (a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women).
  • The issue throws up legal questions on reading the freedom of religion and whether the right to wear a hijab is constitutionally protected.
  • While many women stood up to be counted, arguing forcefully their right to wear what their faith ordains, and quoted verses from Surah Ahzaab of the Koran, many also pointed out the rights granted under the Constitution of India to the minorities to protect their religion, language and culture.
  • It was the new-found confidence of Muslim women to quote from the religious book and also speak up for the rights of a citizen enshrined in the Constitution. Allowing the monopoly of sundry maulanas to interpret the scriptures for them has been fading away.
Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty — which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
  • Over the years, the Supreme Court (SC) has evolved a practical test of essentiality to determine what religious practises can be constitutionally protected and what can be ignored.
  • In 1954, the SC held in the Shirur Mutt case that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practises “integral” to a religion. The test to determine what is integral is termed the “essential religious practices” test.
  • The test, a judicial determination of religious practises, has often been criticised by legal experts as it pushes the court to delve into theological/ religious debate.

Way forward: Seeking rights

  • Some girls went a step further. They pointed out that it is not just women who have to observe purdah in Islam. The men too have their own limited purdah — a mode of compulsory dressing from the navel to the knees that they are not allowed to violate. Again, they quoted verses 30-31 of Surah Nur of the Koran to buttress their contention.
  • Muslim women have also been asserting their right to enter mosques to pray. In the past, mosques were considered a men-only zone. Now, women want their sacred space. It started with a petition in the Haji Ali Dargah case in 2016, where women won the right to enter the dargah’s sanctum sanctorum. This kind of a silent assertion of their rights is unprecedented.
  • At a time when the community is often said to face existential questions, there is a prolonged internal churning within the community, with Muslim women speaking up unlike before. For instance, during the height of the Babri Masjid protests in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was almost invariably the Muslim men who took out rallies and spoke in public. In the Shah Bano case too, where the women actually stood to gain, there was very little affirmative response from Muslim women.
  • Recent years have seen change to the extent that in December 2019 when the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was passed, it was not the traditional Muslim leadership that hit the streets but the women of the community- in the Shaheen Bagh protests.


The message is clear: Indian Muslim women have found their voice. Be it the issue of divorce or the right to pray in a mosque or don the hijab to college, they have a mind of their own and are ready to express it.

India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution to combat climate change


  • In August 2022, India formally updated its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was made on October 2, 2015.
  • India submitted a three-page document, which is an update to its first NDC that was submitted in 2015. The updated NDC is a step towards India’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2070, the government said in a press release.

Paris Climate Agreement:

The 2015 Paris Agreement is a legally binding international climate treaty, approved by world leaders attending the Climate Conference, COP21. Its main goal is to limit global warming by keeping average global temperatures “below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius”, in comparison with pre-industrial levels.

Nationally determined contribution (NDC):

  • Plans submitted by countries to work towards their climate goals are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Each signatory of the Paris Agreement is required to prepare, communicate, and maintain the NDCs it intends to achieve as part of its climate action plan.
  • NDCs are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat.

Emissions intensity

  • Emissions intensity is the total amount of emissions emitted for every unit of GDP.
  • The updated contributions include reducing the emissions intensity of the GDP by 45% by 2030, compared to the 2005 level.
  • According to India’s 2015 NDC, the country had announced that it will work towards improving the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% below the 2005 level, by 2030.
  • In December 2020, former Environment Minister had claimed that India had already achieved 21% of its emissions intensity as a proportion of its GDP in line with its commitment.

Non fossil fuel-based energy:

  • By 2030, India also plans to achieve about 50% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources.
  • To accomplish this, India will use low-cost international finance, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
  • The GCF,set up as part of the Paris Agreement, is the world’s largest climate fund. It helps developing countries achieve their NDCs and work towards lowering emissions, with the hope of eventually averting the climate emergency.

Sustainable living:

  • The press release states that India has propagated sustainable living based on traditions, conservation, and moderation to combat climate change. This also includes a mass movement for “LIFE” – lifestyle for environment.
  • According to NITI Aayog, LIFE is a public movement to encourage people to become pro-planet.

Other highlights of India’s updated NDC:

It includes

  1. adopting a climate-friendly and cleaner path for economic development
  2. creating an additional carbon sink
  3. adapting to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in vulnerable sectors
  4. mobilising funds from developed countries to implement better mitigation and adaptation actions
  5. building an architectural framework and other capacities for quick diffusion
  6. better research and development for climate technologies.

India’s performance in the past:

  • In October 2021, former Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that India is the only G20 country that is on track to achieve its climate goals under the Paris Agreement.
  • In 2019, India ranked among the top 10 countries in the climate change performance index for the first time. It ranked tenth on the 2022 index as well. Its performance was rated high in the greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and climate policy categories, and medium in the renewable energy category.

Environmental Performance Index (EPI):

  • The Environment Performance Index (EPI) is an international ranking system that measures the environmental health and sustainability of countries.
  • 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released on World Environment Day has ranked India last (180th).
  • The EPI, a biennial index, was started in 2002 as Environmental Sustainability Index by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network.


The 2022 EPI leverages 40 performance indicators grouped into 11 issue categories.

These issue categories are in turn aggregated into 3 policy objectives:

  1. Environmental Health
  2. Ecosystem Vitality
  3. Climate Change.

These indicators provide a gauge at a national scale of how close countries are establishing environmental policy targets. The EPI transforms the raw environmental data into indicators that place countries on a 0–100 scale from worst to best performance.

Indian government however has rejected the findings of the report due to faulty methodology.

Way forward:

  1. Renewables: The development of clean and green energy can help divert the burden of fossil fuels and lower air pollution.
  2. Developing new transit systems and extending the existing ones can also result in a boom in employment.
  3. Economy and Environment go hand in hand. A planned approach to development which ensures uncompromised growth prospects especially for the rural economy in India is needed to address climate change challenges effectively.Climate Change also presents an opportunity to adopt a cautious yet sustainable approach to development.
  4. Forests and Wetland Conservation: Forests are known for regulating rainfall and temperature. Conservation and enhancement of forests and wetlands will support agricultural productivity, sequester CO2 emissions, and enhance resilience to environmental shocks as Frontline Warriors.
  5. Proper Waste Management: The mismanagement of waste adds to climate change by adding a variety of pollutants to the atmosphere. The development of waste-selective management plants like waste gasification will tackle this problem.
  6. Building the infrastructure of these plants and future maintenance will open new employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labourers.
  7. Adaptation: Planned adaptation assumes the importance in building adaptive capacity.
  8. Passive Cooling Technology: For residential and commercial buildings, passive cooling technology offers a viable alternative to reduce urban heat islands.
  9. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report cites ancient Indian building designs that utilised this technology, which could be used in modern facilities.
  10. Better Farming Practices: Crop diversification, irrigation-based farming, which reduces dependence on rainfall, and other practices can be considered to address climate change challenges.
  11. Disaster Resilient Infrastructure: It includes development of disaster resilient infrastructure through shelter houses, coastal embankments, and the construction of flood-resistant buildings and roads.
  12. It is also important to develop more accurate and timely weather forecasts and early warning systems.


In the quest to fulfill its national obligations under NDC, India should not forget its welfare and growth obligations towards the vast majority of its population.


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