Leading the charge of Muslim MPs against the triple talaq ill, AIMIM MP and All India Muslim Personal Law Board executive committee member Asaduddin Owaisi sought a law for “20 lakh abandoned women” of all religions “including our bhabhis in Gujarat”. He questioned how a law pertaining to Muslim marriage, which is a civil contract, could resort to criminalisation. He cited census figures to make the point that 80% child marriages are among non-Muslims and 20 lakh of 23 lakh abandoned women are Hindus.
“I charge this government. You do not want to bring a law to punish those husbands who are married but their wives are not living with them… You have a vested interest. A law should be made against a man who marries and then abandons or deserts his wife,” he said. The law will only give a handle to Muslim men to do more injustice, not protect women, he argued.
He questioned a law that was framed without consultation with Muslim groups – citing the reply by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to a Lok Sabha question – and called Prasad a “failed draftsman” because, he said, how can an act that is void by law be punished in the same law.
Prasad made his displeasure clear by giving a brief overview of his own education and legal career. Owaisi used a story about a monkey who claimed to be “saving” the fish by picking them out of the water to underline what he thought about the bill. He moved several amendments, all of which were voted out. Interestingly, while MoS (External Affairs) M J Akbar made a powerful pitch for the law, he added about the criminalisation aspect. “That is an issue, I am sure the minister is listening.”
Speaking in Tamil, AIADMK MP Anwhar Rhajha said that instant triple talaq is a transgression and there was no problem in making it legally untenable. The problem, he said, lay in the criminalisation. “Supreme Court has said that triple talaq should not be pronounced at one go. You bring a legislation on these lines. We will accept it. But where is the criminal procedure on this?… The Tamil Nadu Government has opposed this legislation…. The provision of punishment with 3 years imprisonment and fine may be omitted,” Rhajha said.
Muslim women, he said, did not have to fight for their rights because those rights are provided in the holy book, “These are the aspects that are explained in Holy Qur’an which we meticulously follow. They say that they will protect our Muslim women. Madam Speaker, I want to say that Islam provided the right of property to Muslim women in the first instance. Islam provided them the right to legal heirship. Islam provided its women the right to select their life partners. Islam is the first religion to provide all these rights to its women. Right to education, Right to divorce, Right to remarriage, Right to select her husband, all these rights are provided to women by Islam.”