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24 February 2017 Question Bank


24th FEBRUARY 2017 


(2 Questions)


Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.

Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.


1.      “The issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy needs to be considered in the light of principles of gender justice and the overriding principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality”. Comment.

(Repeat Question from 28 Oct 2016 Question Bank,

8 Sept 2016 Question Bank)


 ‘Muslim women’s quest for equality’

  •  In October 2015, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, while hearing another matter having little to do with Islamic law, decided to register a PIL suo motu titled ‘Muslim women’s quest for equality,’ on the gender discrimination women face under the Muslim personal law.
  •  It asked the Chief Justice to set up a Bench to examine gender discrimination against Muslim women, especially “arbitrary divorce”.
  •  The case snowballed with the addition of other petitions, and after all impleadments were considered by Chief Justice T S Thakur recently, hearings have been scheduled for September.
  • The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Centre to a petition by a West Bengal-based Muslim woman, Ishrat Jahan, to declare the practices of talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq), nikah halala and polygamy under Muslim personal laws as illegal and unconstitutional.
  • Nikah Halala is a divorce diktat in Sharia law. A divorced couple cannot remarry unless the woman marries another man again and he divorces her.

Issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala

  •  The government’s affidavit in Supreme Court says that “the issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy needs to be considered in the light of principles of gender justice and the overriding principle of non-discrimination, Polygyny in the Islamic context dignity and equality”.
  •   The government affidavit seems to have ignored the fact that in the Shamim Ara case (2002) the Supreme Court, relying on several earlier rulings, had invalidated instant triple talaq and, by that decision, rendered even halala redundant and equally illegal. 
  •  Halala is the un-Islamic temporary marriage a victim of instant talaq is forced to undergo with another man to remarry her first husband. As is obvious, the delegitimisation of instant talaq makes halala unnecessary.

All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) response:

  •  A man who pronounced triple talaq upon his wife approached Caliph Umar, one of the most powerful and influential Muslim Caliphs in history, for punishment. The Caliph ordered the man to be whipped. But he also ensured the separation of the couple.
  •  This anecdote is quoted by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in an affidavit to explain that though triple talaq is a “sin” and the “least appreciated form of ending a marriage”, Shariat (Muslim personal law) permits it.
  •  Polygamy, it said, is “not even desirable”. The Quran does not make it mandatory. “Yet, since polygamy is endorsed by primary Islamic sources, it cannot be dubbed as something prohibited,” the AIMPLB told the Supreme Court.

Conditional polygyny in the Koran

  •  Polygamy includes both polygyny and polyandry.
  •  The Koran categorically prohibits polyandry and therefore, it is polygyny that the Supreme Court will be ruling on in the present case.
  •  Polygyny, which finds mention just once (4:3) in the Koran, is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islamic law. It has been abused over the centuries by Muslim men without appreciating the spirit behind its exceptional sanction, which is clearly contextualised in the historical conditions of the time when a large number of women were widowed and children orphaned as Muslims suffered heavy casualties in defending the nascent Islamic community in Medina. Even a simple reading of verses 4:2, 3 and 127 will show that it was under such circumstances that the Koran allowed conditional polygyny, mainly to protect orphans and their mothers from an exploitative society.
  •  Verse 4:2 warns caretakers against devouring the assets of orphans either by merging them with their own or substituting their “worthless properties for the good ones” of the orphans. And, if the caretakers “fear that they may not be able to do justice” to the interests of the orphans in isolation, the next verse allows them to marry their widowed mothers — on the condition that the new family would be dealt justly on a par with the existing one. For those who are not up to it, the instruction of the Koran is: “Then [marry] only one.”
  •  It is clear from these arguments that verse 4:3 is not a hedonistic licence to marry several women.
  •  The Prophet married Hazrat Khadija. She was 15 years older than him, she was a widow, and he worked for her. It was she who proposed marriage. This is the Prophet’s Sunnah (practice). What example does it provide for the believers?
  •  Besides, there are several statements in the Koran which describe husband and wife as “spousal mates” created to find “quiet of mind” (7:189) and “to dwell in tranquility” (30:21) in the companionship of each other. Indeed, verse 7:189, which traces the origin of man from a single cell (nafsan waahida), talks of the wife in the singular as zaujaha, thereby emphasising monogamy. Thus, marriage according to the Koran is the emotional bonding of two minds which cannot be achieved simultaneously with more than one woman.
  •  Thankfully, as such conditions do not exist in India, polygyny is not permissible here.
  •  The Supreme Court would therefore be justified in delegitimising polygyny practised for reasons other than those mentioned in the Koran just as it invalidated instant triple talaq in the Shamim Ara case for not being in consonance with the Koranic procedure.
  •  Indeed, the court’s imposition of fetters on polygyny would serve as a de facto ban on the practice, thereby rendering unnecessary the need for a blanket ban — sought by some Muslim groups — which would be politically inexpedient in the prevailing circumstances.

Muslim polygyny v. Hindu bigamy

  •  From another point of view too, a total ban on polygyny may not be advisable.
  •  Latest census data and impact studies conducted by researchers such as Flavia Agnes show that bigamy continues to prevail among the Hindus despite the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 outlawing it, and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) declaring it a punishable offence.

Rights of the ‘second wife’

  •  In the Rameshchandra Rampratapji Daga v. Rameshwari Rameshchandra Daga case of 2004, the Supreme Court, while justifying the granting of maintenance to a second wife and her daughter, observed: “…a bigamous marriage may be declared illegal being in contravention of the provisions of the [Hindu Marriage] Act but it cannot be said to be immoral so as to deny even the right of alimony or maintenance to a spouse financially weak and economically dependent.”
  •  This view was fully endorsed in 2013 by another Supreme Court Bench in the matter of Badshah v. Sou. Urmila Badshah Godse & Anr where it was emphasised that “just as change in social reality is the law of life, responsiveness to change in social reality is the life of the law.”


  •  Unfortunately, ill-informed calls for the abolition of polygyny among Muslims are not based on an appreciation of the change in social reality today which is manifesting itself in the form of a renewed emphasis on individual rights especially with regard to sexual orientation and preference.
  •   Therefore, pending examination of the Hindu bigamy law through the prism of these facts, the most judicious option, insofar as Muslim polygyny is concerned, would be to fetter it with Koranic conditions as discussed above.
  •  This should not be a difficult decision given the fact that eight out of the 10 countries cited approvingly in the government’s affidavit have regulated polygyny by making it conditional. It would therefore be improper to hold up these countries as examples in the case of instant triple talaq — which all 10 have invalidated — while ignoring 80 per cent of them on polygyny.



2.      Economists are advocating universal basic incomes for fighting inequality, slow wage growth, advancing automation and fears that immigrants will take away jobs. Discuss its viability in India.

(Repeat question from 27th January 2017 Question Bank)


Universal Basic Income endorsed:

  • Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has devoted a chapter in the annual Economic Survey to discussing unconditional universal basic income as a tool for poverty reduction.
  • The first known suggestion on an unconditional universal basic income for all adults regardless of other income sources was from Thomas More.
  • Centuries later, in 1918, Bertrand Russell asserted, A certain small income, sufficient for necessities should be secured to all, whether they work or not, and that a larger income — as much larger as might be warranted by the total amount of commodities produced — should be given to those who are willing to engage in some work which the community recognises as useful.”
  • With anti-globalist populism on the rise, several advanced countries are considering whether they should start mailing cheques to the unemployed.
  • Finland’s is the best known trial. Two thousand randomly selected unemployed Finns will for the next two years receive €560 in guaranteed tax-free incomes every month. The payments will continue even when they try out odd jobs. If the pilot is successful, the programme could be extended to all adult Finns.

Pros of universal basic income:

  • Economists are advocating universal basic incomes for  fighting inequality, slow wage growth, advancing automation and fears that immigrants will take away jobs.
  • While free trade and technological advances have grown national incomes, not every individual is better off. There are winners and losers.
  • Redistributive government intervention is needed so that no one is left worse off.
  • To those too weak, unwell or challenged physically to pick up skills and take up jobs, guaranteed incomes provide a safety net.
  • Where people are skilled and employed, but receive low wages, as seen in the case of handloom weavers or in small enterprises, basic incomes can supplement earnings and support welfare.

Lessons from a pilot project

  • The ‘transformative’ potential of guaranteed unconditional incomes was demonstrated in Madhya Pradesh back in 2014, which is documented in the book Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (2015).
  • The income supplements given amounted to less than a third of monthly expenditure for families living at the poverty line.
  • The authors reported several positive effects of the experiment:

1.      Nutrition intake rose. Specifically, consumption of pulses, fresh vegetables and meat was up 1,000%, 888% and 600% respectively.

2.      As a result, incidence of illness dropped.

3.      Enrolment and attendance, especially among female students, in schools improved.

4.      It resulted in more equitable development. On receiving the payments, marginalised individuals began exercising agency within their households and the community.

5.      There were also economic spin-offs as villagers worked harder than before, with a number of adults engaging in two economic activities (own-account farming with small business on the side).

6.      Indebtedness decreased as the propensity to save increased over the pilot period.

Doubts over welfare payments:

The results dispel doubts such as :

1.      whether ungrateful welfare abusers will buy alcohol with their new-found income,

2.      if welfare payments are dignity-destroying and other such apprehensions often expressed as ‘don’t just give them fish; teach them how to fish’.

The feasibility quotient:

  • If a basic income is introduced in addition to the two statutory income transfer schemes for food and wage jobs already in place, the government’s deficit will balloon.
  • The Food Security Act already provides for statutory income transfers.
  • A basic income scheme will be administratively easier and cleaner than the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS): putting money into select Aadhaar-seeded Jan-Dhan bank accounts ought to be relatively simple.
  • Both will have to be reformed if the plan is to guarantee all three: food, basic income and wage jobs.
  • A new universal basic income for all Indians won’t be affordable unless it replaces the whole multitude of programmes and subsidies currently in place.
  • That would rid the welfare system of all the existing overlaps and gaps, but the simplicity will extract huge political capital.
  • More feasible is a basic income targeted at the most deprived, using the socio-economic census.
  • Creating sustainable funding sources for it, whether by way of new taxes or by streamlining entrenched subsidies and incentives, will still be a challenge. One worth taking up, for it will also be an opportunity to reinvent the welfare system.
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