The Triple Talaq Bill will be tabled in Rajya Sabha Tuesday, a week after Lok Sabha passed it by voice vote. The Bill seeks to criminalise the practice of instant talaq, after the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, set aside the centuries-old practice.
The court acted on a plea filed by six petitioners which included Shayara Bano, Ishrat Jahan, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Gulshan Parween, Aafreen Rehman, and Atiya Sabri. After multiple hearings, the practice was declared void by the top court last year.
Here is what happened so far:
In October 2015, a Supreme Court bench dealing with a case related to the Hindu Succession Act requested the Chief Justice of India to set up a separate bench to examine if Muslim women face gender discrimination in cases of divorce. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was asked to assist the court in pleas challenging the validity of Triple Talaq and polygamy. The government had vehemently opposed the practice in the court.
A five-judge Constitution bench was set up to hear the plea in May 2017. The court initially consulted with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) whether it was possible to introduce the option for women to say ‘no’ to Triple Talaq.
The Court made it very clear in its proceedings that “we will only look at Triple Talaq and whether it is constitutional and not go into issues such as polygamy.” Amid opposition from the AIMPLB, which said that the practice was 1,400 years old, the court declared the practice illegal in August 2017.
In his first remarks after the Lok Sabha passed the Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Muslim women finally have a way out of years of suffering. The government has been of the view that the practice of talaq-e-bidaat denied Muslim women the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. In the Supreme Court, AG Mukul Rohatgi said that the practice should not be allowed as women have equal rights as men and the practice was in violation of those rights. The government said it was ready to bring in a new law to regulate the practice of divorce among Muslims.
When the Court declared the practice of instant talaq illegal, the government hailed the decision by calling it a red letter day for women rights in India. The Bill was tabled in Lok Sabha during the winter session and was passed without much opposition as the government enjoys a comfortable majority. However, this could change in Rajya Sabha as Opposition parties have expressed their reservations over the Bill.
When the Bill ws introduced in the Lower House, Opposition parties like the RJD, AIMIM, BJD, IUML and AIADMK objected but failed to rally together when it was taken up for voting. The Congress did not even give notice to oppose introduction of the Bill and the Trinamool Congress did not participate in the discussion.
AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who alleged “vested interests” behind the legislation, said it was an attempt to demonise Muslim men. The Bill, he maintained, violated fundamental rights. Owaisi said while the Bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the government should also worry about “20 lakh abandoned women of all religions, including our bhabhi in Gujarat”.
All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board
The All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board has been against with the government’s decision to bring in a law to criminalise the practice of instant talaq. In the Supreme court, the AIMPLB said that the matter fell outside the realm of the judiciary. However, the board issued a “code of conduct” and warned Muslim men against giving divorce without following the norms of Sharia law. The board also said that issues of constitutional morality and equity cannot arise when a matter of faith is concerned.
The board recently urged the Central government to withhold and withdraw its Bill to outlaw instant Triple Talaq, stating that it was against the principles of Shariah and amounts to interference in the Muslim personal law.