The Lok Sabha is set to take up the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill to enact a law that will outlaw instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat. The Bill, it is learnt, has a provision for a three-year jail term and fine for any Muslim man who divorces his wife by uttering talaq three times in quick succession.
Sources said the Bill, that is expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, also deals with subsistence allowance for Muslim women and custody of minor children. The proposed law, sources said, will make triple talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
The government drafted the Bill after the Supreme Court, in a landmark 3-2 verdict on August 22, “set aside” the centuries-old practice of talaq-e-biddat. Three of 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, while underlining the primacy of Muslim personal law, 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.
Following the verdict, the government decided to draft a law. Sources said it was noted that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, had also maintained that it was for the legislature to frame a law and courts could not decide matters of religious practices such as talaq-e-biddat. The Board had also said it would sensitise Muslims against such a practice.
But shortly after the verdict, community leaders such as Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had said that the practice would continue, irrespective of the legal view. “If you want to punish the person for it, you can do so but the divorce will be recognised,” Madani had said.
The proposed law has also been opposed by activists, including Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, who say “it is too drastic a measure which leaves no opportunity for the errant husband to retrace his steps, leaves no opportunity for attempts at reconciliation… It amounts to an indirect punishment of the already aggrieved wife and children”. They question how a man in jail will raise income to pay for his wife’s claim for maintenance for her children and herself.
Bebak Collective, which was an intervenor in support of the triple talaq plea by Shayara Bano, said criminalising talaq-e-biddat does not address the issue of unilateral talaq, which men can still pronounce over a period of three months under the personal law. “Instead of bringing in a new legislation that merely criminalises instant talaq, the government should amend the existing Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. The Act requires women to approach the court for divorce. It should be made gender-neutral so that even men have to approach the court for a divorce,” it said.