The case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum[1], is considered that landmark case not only in Constitutional history but also in political history of India, that changed a lot in India in the arena of personal law and muslim politics. This case started a debate on Triple Talaq and Uniform Civil Code in India.

At the end of the judgment, the supreme court made important observation regarding the implementation of Uniform Civil Code in India.

Supreme court’s observation

“It is also a matter of regret that Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter. It provides that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. There is no evidence of any official activity for framing a common civil code for the country. A belief seems to have gained ground that it is for the Muslim community to take a lead in the matter of reforms of their personal law.

A common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. No community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue. It is the State which is charged with the duty of securing a uniform civil code for the citizens of the country and, unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so.

A counsel in the case whispered, somewhat audibly, that legislative competence is one thing, the political courage to use that competence is quite another. We understand the difficulties involved in bringing persons of different faiths and persuasions on a common platform, But, a beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning. Inevitably, the role of the reformer has to be assumed by the courts because, it is beyond the endurance of sensitive minds to allow injustice to be suffered when it is so palpable. But piecemeal attempts of courts to bridge the gap between personal Laws cannot take the place of a common Civil Code. Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.

Dr. Tahir Mahmood in his book ‘Muslim Personal Law’ (1977 Edition, pages 200-202), has made a powerful plea for framing a uniform Civil Code for all citizens of India. He says: “In pursuance of the goal of secularism, the State must stop administering religion based personal laws”. He wants the lead to come from the majority community but, we should have thought that, lead or no lead, the State must act. It would be useful to quote the appeal made by the author to the Muslim community: “Instead of wasting their energies in exerting theological and political pressure in order to secure an “immunity” for their traditional personal law from the state` legislative jurisdiction, the Muslim will do well to begin exploring and demonstrating how the true Islamic laws, purged of their time-worn and anachronistic interpretations, can enrich the common civil code of India.”

At a Seminar held on October 18, 1980 under the auspices of the Department of Islamic and Comparative Law, Indian Institute of Islamic Studies New Delhi, he also made an appeal to the Muslim community to display by their conduct a correct understanding of Islamic concepts on marriage and divorce.

Before we conclude, we would like to draw attention to the Report of the Commission on marriage and Family Laws, which was appointed by the Government of Pakistan by a Resolution dated August 4, 1955. The answer of the Commission to Question No.5 (page 1215 of the Report) is that “a large number of middle-aged women who are being divorced without rhyme or reason should not be thrown on the streets without a roof over their heads and without any means of sustaining themselves and their children.”

The Report concludes thus: “In the words of Allama Iqbal, “the question which is likely to confront Muslim countries in the near future, is whether the law of Islam is capable of evolution-a question which will require great intellectual effort, and is sure to he answered in the affirmative “.


Mohd. Ahmad Khan v. Shah Bano begum (1985)

[1] 1985 AIR 945