The triple talaq bill or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, that criminalises the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims, was tabled in the Parliament on Thursday. The bill was introduced by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the lower house, Lok Sabha.
Introducing the bill, Prasad said that it was a “historic day” amid opposition to its introduction by members of different parties, including RJD, AIMIM, BJD and All India Muslim League. The law is about justice and respect for women and is not about any religion or community, the law minister said, adding that the practice of instant triple has continued despite the Supreme Court order terming it void. Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some opposition members claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. “It is a historic day. We are making history today,” Prasad said.
Members from RJD, AIMIM, BJD, Indian Union Muslim League and AIADMK, who had given notice to oppose its introduction spoke against the measure. But members from the Congress and the Left, who were also opposing it from their benches, were not allowed to speak as they had not given notice. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was also seen opposing the bill. The TMC, which had opposed the draft bill earlier, was silent.
While JPN Yadav of RJD questioned the proposed three-year jail term, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said Parliament lacks the legislative competence to pass the law as it violated fundamental rights. He said while the bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the government should also worry about nearly 20 lakh women of various religions who are abandoned by their husbands, “including our bhabhi from Gujarat”.
Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, a former union law minister, struck a discordant note, insisting the proposed law will be an “intrusion” into the personal lives of individuals and bring divorce, a civil issue, into the realm of criminal law. Khurshid said,”It is an instrusion into the personal lives of individuals. Taking criminal law into the family, you have to be careful. To make divorce in any form a criminal matter is unacceptable anywhere in the world.”
Khurshid, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said divorce or consequences of divorce, are areas of civil law and not criminal law, which comes in only when there is violence. “Criminal law is kept out of family as far as possible, which is a general policy everywhere. Why are we bringing criminal law into something which is a non-existing factor? Triple talaq is no institution or institutional fact of life, the Supreme Court has made it very clear,” he said.
Congress’s communications department incharge Randeep Surjewala said Parliament must ensure the protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances. He said the Congress was the first political party to welcome the Supreme Court verdict banning triple talaq, and had hailed it as a decisive step towards women empowerment and victory for the rights of muslim women.
“The Congress has always believed that the issue of instant triple talaq ‘Talaq-e-biddat’ is about gender justice and gender equity. The Congress will support any and every law abolishing instant triple talaq. The present bill needs to be strengthened to safeguard the rights of women to a life of dignity with adequate subsistence allowance. Parliament must ensure protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances,” he said.
Muslim League’s E T Mohammed Bashir said the proposed law was violative of personal laws and was a politically motivated move. B Mahtab (BJD) said while he would not talk about the merits of the bill, its framing was “faulty and “flawed”. He said if the proposed law makes the practice of instant triple talaq illegal and void, how can a person be jailed for pronouncing ‘talaq-e-biddat’. A Anwar Raja of the AIADMK opposed the bill.
The bill, prepared by an inter-ministerial group headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — “illegal and void” and provides for a jail term of three years for the husband. It was cleared by the Union Cabinet earlier this month.
A provision of imprisonment for a term – which may extend to three years and fine for violators – is also there in the bill. The draft bill also envisages entitling divorcee Muslim women for maintenance.
The proposed law would only be applicable to instant triple talaq and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.
The bill was listed for introduction last week, but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said it would be introduced this week.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a consensus in passage of the bill , Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar has said. Briefing reporters on the proceedings of the weekly BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, he said the prime minister appealed for a consensus in passage of the ‘Muslim women Protection of Rights on Marriage’ Bill.
In September, the apex court, in a historic judgment, ruled that the practice of divorce through triple talaq among Muslims is “void”, “illegal” and “unconstitutional” by two-third majority.
(With PTI inputs)