The government will introduce on Thursday the much-awaited bill to criminalise triple talaq or instant divorce in the Lok Sabha amid reservation from several parties over key provisions, and various Muslim organisations asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withhold and withdraw the proposed law. (Parliament live updates)
The stance indicates another tussle may be in the offing on the floor of the House in the winter session, which had just reached a fragile truce between the government and the Congress after a week-long standoff over the main opposition party’s demand that Modi clarify his remarks about former prime minister Manmohan Singh over on the campaign trail in the recent Gujarat elections.
“The Congress stand is that the SC judgment should be followed in letter and spirit. However, using a highly polarised 3-2 verdict, and that too, with variation even among the majority verdicts, the government can’t and shouldn’t misuse that verdict as a springboard for significant expansion not even remotely contemplated in majority verdicts,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the Hindustan Times.The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 criminalises instant triple talaq and imposes a prison term of up to three years and fine on husbands who violate the law. It also aims to provide alimony for the woman on whom instant triple talaq has been pronounced and grant her the custody of her children.
In August, three of five judges of a Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court said the practice of saying “talaq” three times in one go – sometimes even over email and WhatsApp – violated women’s right to equality and was not integral to Islam.
The then chief justice of India JS Khehar and justice S Abdul Nazeer gave opposing views and asked the government to bring a law to regulate the practice within six months. The majority verdict overrides the minority view.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Mohammed Salim maintained that the government should spread awareness on the issue instead of bringing a law.
“Is this the most pressing issue in the country? How many cases of triple talaq happen in the country? Islam doesn’t approve of triple talaq. The Centre must focus on issues like malnutrition among children, trafficking of women instead,” he said.
The Biju Janata Dal’s Lok Sabha leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said strict penal provisions in a civil matter were uncalled for.
“The three-year imprisonment for a husband who gives triple talaq to his wife is a point of concern. If the law is unnecessarily stringent, every possibility that it may be misused and not serve the purpose,” said Mahtab.All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) spokesperson Maulana Sajjad Nomani, after an emergency meeting on the issue in Lucknow, said: “The terms set out in the proposed bill not only encroach upon the constitutional guarantees granted to religious minorities but are also against the very essence of the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court on August 22, 2017, in instant triple divorce matter.”
The move against triple talaq follows numerous complaints by Muslim women, who were divorced through the customary practice and denied alimony and other rights.
Talaq-e-biddat is banned in 22 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. Muslim men in India can still divorce using two other forms of talaq that have a three-month cooling off period.
The proposed law would be applicable only to instant triple talaq and it would empower Muslim women to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and her minor children.
The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate.