The practice of Triple Talaq is on the way to becoming punishable under the law as The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a Bill that criminalises instant divorce with three years of imprisonment for Muslim husbands after the government rejected the Opposition’s demand to refer the legislation to a parliamentary standing committee for detailed consideration.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which prohibits divorce by pronouncing instant talaq, or talaq-e-biddat, was passed with most of the leading parties in the Opposition, including the Congress, voting in favour of the Bill, but with caveats.
The Bill allows the victim to approach a magistrate to seek “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children. All kinds of instant triple talaq – spoken, in writing or by electronic means, such email, text message or WhatsApp – would be illegal and void.
Here are the top 10 developments in the matter:
1) After the Lok Sabha passed the triple talaq Bill on Thursday, the Narendra Modi government indicated it would be amenable to incorporating some of the amendments that the Opposition suggested when the Bill comes up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha. The government doesn’t have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, and a combined Opposition can force the bill to be sent to a House Select Committee for further study.
2) Various amendments moved by Opposition members, including All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM’s) Asaduddin Owaisi and Revolutionary Socialist Party member N K Premachandran, were negatived in divisions. The Biju Janata Dal and AIMIM later staged a walk out.
3) Several Opposition members pointed at the contradictions in the Bill, and slammed it for being poorly drafted. Opposition members, including of the Congress and Left parties, criticised the government for not consulting stakeholders and for “draconian” penal provision of imprisonment of three years. Members said the government needed to dispel the perception of harbouring “ulterior motives” in pushing through the Bill. They said the Bill’s provisions could further alienate the Muslim community from the mainstream. Opposition members also recommended the Bill be sent to a parliamentary standing committee in the interest of an improved legislation.
4) The Congress, the Left, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and other leading parties supported the Bill. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, All India Muslim League and AIMIM opposed the Bill. Conspicuously, none from the Trinamool Congress participated in the discussion. “It is the party’s decision,” Trinamool Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy said, refusing to elaborate. Party sources said the decision had to do with the party’s electoral compulsions in West Bengal.
5) Owaisi on Thursday said that the Triple Talaq Bill violates the fundamental rights of Muslims. “The triple talaq Bill violates fundamental rights of Muslims. There is an absence of consistency with the existing legal framework. The Bill says the husband will be sent to jail, and it also says he will have to pay allowance… How can a person in jail pay allowance?” Owaisi said in Lok Sabha while referring to the provision that a woman given triple talaq will have the right to seek maintenance.
“The Union law minister has failed to discriminate between civil law and criminal law. Not a single Muslim country has a penal provision. Triple talaq is a verbal and emotional abuse,” Owaisi added. He also alleged that the Centre gave an advantage to the offenders and was not helping the situation. “Your dream of having more Muslims in jail will be achieved. Please send the Bill to the Standing Committee. You are forcing a Muslim woman to file an FIR against her husband. You are giving a handle to the Muslim man, who will have 90 days. If you are true to your intentions, create a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore,” he said.
Two amendments moved by Owaisi were negated in the Lok Sabha.
6) The Congress on Thursday said that they wanted certain amendments but the government was “in a hurry to pass” the Triple Talaq Bill. “It is a progressive Bill, all parties supported it. But there were certain reservations, wanted certain amendments, that is why we insisted it should be referred to the Standing Committee but they were in a hurry to pass the Bill,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told news agency ANI.
The Congress said the party will take further steps in the Rajya Sabha to reduce the suspicion created by the central government in the Bill. “Our party will take further steps in the Rajya Sabha. We will discuss with Rajya Sabha members and find out a way to reduce the suspicion created by the government,” said Kharge.
Earlier in the day, the Congress party extended its support for the Triple Talaq Bill that was tabled by the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the Lok Sabha, adding that there “are certain lacunae in it that need to be rectified before bringing it into force”.
7) The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Thursday expressed serious reservations over the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha and said it will take steps through democratic means to “amend, improve or scrap” it.
“We will take whatever steps required through democratic means to amend, improve or scrap it. There is no move to go to court as of now… The bill was brought in a haste,” AIMPLB spokesperson Maulana Khalil-ur-Rehman Sajjad Nomani told news agency PTI. He also said the board should have been taken into confidence on the issue. “Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while tabling the bill also quoted the board and a lady MP of the ruling party tried to answer the queries raised by the Board in a letter to the prime minister proving that the government recognises the board. So the board should have been taken into confidence,” Nomani added.
However, AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani hinted that the board may approach the supreme court against the triple talaq Bill once it is passed by the Parliament. “An option is always open to challenge the law passed (by the Parliament), which is against the Supreme Court’s judgement and the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court.”
8) Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the Bill and later piloted it in the Lok Sabha, said history was being created today.
He said the issue was not of religion or faith but of “gender justice and gender equality” and appealed to all the parties to rise above political considerations and politics of votebank. “Women are seeing that justice will be done to them. Let us speak in one voice that we are for gender justice and gender equity and pass the Bill unanimously,” Prasad said, winding up the discussion.
Prasad also said instances of instant triple talaq continue despite the Supreme Court ruling it as unconstitutional in August this year. He said the government had hoped the situation would improve after the Supreme Court verdict. “We had hope. The judgment came on August 22. There were 300 triple talaq cases in 2017 of which 100 had taken place after the Supreme Court verdict. This raises a big question,” Prasad said.
The minister saw no justification in the demand for referring the Bill to a standing committee, saying that the affected Muslim women were crying for justice and were fully backing it.
9) The Bill on triple talaq passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday has nothing to do with the Uniform Civil Code, Prasad said on Thursday, insisting that the Bill was about gender justice and dignity. Prasad was replying to a debate on The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in which several Opposition members suggested that through this Bill, the government is actually trying to move towards a Uniform Civil Code — which seeks to replace personal laws with a common set of rules.
“It is not about common civil code… This is just about triple talaq. The issue of Uniform Civil Code is with the Law Commission so there is no point in talking about that,” Prasad said.
10) While welcoming the triple talaq Bill, Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi on Friday called for 10 years punishment for the offender.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Rizvi said, “This is a welcome move but it lacks one thing. The punishment should be increased from three years to 10 years. This is a question of women’s right. There should be atleast 10 year punishment for those who give instant triple talaq.” He further lashed out at the Muslim Personal Law Board for opposing the Bill and said that it is trying to turn India into Afghanistan.