Walking with ‘the Quran in one hand and the Constitution in the other’: The Islamic Women’s Movement in India and Landscapes of Adjudication

This paper charts the landscapes of adjudication by the Indian Supreme Court by closely interrogating primarily two cases, Shah Bano v Union of India and Shayara Bano v Union of India to understand if religion and constitutionalism can speak to each other and if they are constitutive of each other. Recent studies have indicated the multiple ways in which Muslim women have navigated between community spaces and the institutions of state to carve out spaces for themselves in the patriarchal legal landscape. Institutional fluidity between Muslim Women’s Networks, a complex Muslim leadership and the state have rendered this process of understanding the languages of ‘gender justice’ in the formal as well as informal adjudicative site a more challenging process. In this adjudicative site, my paper proposes to offer a framework to understand the ways in which the judiciary has negotiated with a liberal interpretive meaning of ‘religion’ in the constitutional order to accommodate readings of equality and sometimes in the reductive model of secularization of religion, modernity, national unity and integration. In doing so, the paper will also frame how the court has imagined and constructed the Muslim woman citizen, who in the eyes of formal as well as informal adjudicative sites does not remain an individual, unmarked bearer of rights but a subject who is a product of state, community and gender.