Over three months after the Supreme Court “set aside” the practice of instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat, the Centre has drawn up a draft law which makes it a “cognizable and non-bailable” offence, punishable with three years jail and a monetary fine. The draft law — Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act — also allows a woman who has been given instant triple talaq to move court, seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and dependent children, as well as custody of minor children. A Bill to this effect is likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, highly placed government sources said on Friday.
The proposed law, which empowers Muslim women, applies to instant triple talaq in “oral, written, electronic or any other form”. Any declaration of talaq-e-biddat by a Muslim man shall be “illegal and void”, says the draft law.
Explaining the rationale behind the new law, sources said the practice of instant triple talaq has not stopped despite the Supreme Court order. The sources also expressed concern that the Muslim Personal Law Board had not been able to do anything on the issue despite its assurances to the apex court.
The Centre has forwarded the draft law to states, and asked them to send their views soon. Though marriage and divorce figure in the concurrent list, the Centre thought it proper, in view of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, to consult the states, said a senior official. The law, however, will not apply to Jammu and Kashmir.
On whether the law would also have retrospective effect, the official said that would be for the Parliament to decide.
In a landmark verdict on August 22, the Supreme Court had “set aside” the centuries-old practice of instant triple talaq in which Muslim men divorce their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession.
Three of the five judges on the Constitution Bench — Justices Rohinton F Nariman, Uday U Lalit and Kurian Joseph — called the practice un-Islamic and “arbitrary” and disagreed with the view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice.
But the minority ruling of then Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer underlined the primacy of Muslim personal law and said the practice enjoyed constitutional protection and was beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny. They were of the view that Parliament should consider an “appropriate” law to deal with the issue of talaq-e-biddat.
According to sources, 244 cases of triple talaq — 177 before the Supreme Court’s verdict and 67 after that — were reported from across the country this year, with Uttar Pradesh topping the list. The actual figures could be much more, they said.