Lok Sabha passes bill criminalising Triple Talaq

Meenakshi Lekhi

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by the Lok Sabha by a voice vote after a four-hour long debate.

The proposed law, which makes talaq-e-biddat a "cognizable and non-bailable offence", has provisions of "imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine" for any Muslim man who divorces his wife by uttering talaq three times in quick succession. The bill also punishes a man for the same act. While introducing the Bill earlier in the day, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had called it a historic day and stated that the Bill was aimed at ensuring gender justice for Muslim women, while assuring the House that "it was not about religion but about justice and respect for women".

Opposition parties like the RJD, AIMIM, BJD, IUML and AIADMK objected when the Bill was being introduced in the House.

The bill was passed amid hue and cry of most of the leading political parties in the Opposition, together with the Congress party, voting in favor of the bill, but with some cautions.

Women's rights activists have pointed out that the penalising might discourage reporting of instant triple talaq, or worse still, may lead to desertion of the wife by the husband without technically giving instant triple talaq.

BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi said: "The only reason why there has been no law is politics".

The bill states that the commission will have government nominated chairman and members, and the board members will be selected by a search committee under the Cabinet Secretary. The Bill also seeks to entitle a woman to get the custody of her minor children as well as subsistance allowance from her husband in case he pronounced the Triple Talaq on her.

Initiating the discussion, Sushmita Dev (Congress) said that triple talaq was a regressive practice but there were apprehensions about its misuse against Muslim men as has happened in the marital rape law.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who was a counsel for Bebaak Collective on the issue of triple talaq in Supreme Court, however, expressed shock.

On the Opposition's criticism of the criminalisation provision, Prasad there was the practical need to provide a redressal mechanism for aggrieved victims of illegal divorces to give effect to the Supreme Court order.

Soon after the apex court's ruling, the government set up a ministerial panel to frame the legislation. "With polygamy still in practice, abolition of triple talaq can not alone not help us", Rizwana said to news agency PTI.

Ms. Rizwana and Ms. Razia were of the view that the government should have dealt with the issue of polygamy by banning it in the same Bill.

Another former Congress minister Kapil Sibal's decision to defend triple talaq on behalf of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in the Supreme Court on grounds that "it is an age-old tradition and could not be considered unconstitutional" has not gone down well with the party bigwigs.

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