Lok Sabha, on December 27, passed a Bill criminalising the practice of Triple Talaq after a five-hour debate and witnessed a walkout from both the Congress and AIADMK.
The proposed law comes with a three-year jail sentence for erring husbands. It would also impose a fine on the husband and allow maintenance to the wife from the husband.
What is Triple Talaq?
Triple Talaq is a practice where a Muslim man can divorce his wife by simply uttering “talaq” three times. It is prevalent among the Muslim community of India, majority of whom follow the Hanafi Islamic school of law.
This mode of divorce is not universal among Muslims across the world. Various Islamic schools of thought prefer deferring the divorce process, generally for over a period of three months.
The government in the past has cited the example of many predominantly Muslim countries, including Pakistan, which have banned triple talaq.
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Why the debate over Triple Talaq?
The Triple Talaq issue has caught momentum and media attention for two years now. It started with the Muslim organisation, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), launching a campaign to ban Triple Talaq and Nikah Halala. The latter is a practice where divorced women must consummate a second marriage, if they intend to go back to their former husbands.
Zakia Soman, one of the co- founders of the BMMA, was reportedly quoted saying in an interview, ‘In the course of our work, we have regularly been approached by our sisters, complaining about mistreatment and misuse of the oral talaq system. In most cases, men go scot-free and believe their action is approved by the Quran.’
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken in favour of this issue, calling for justice for Muslim women.
The Triple Talaq debate had sparked controversy earlier and called for debate over the rights of Muslim women. Notably, issues of divorce, marriage, and inheritance come under the purview of the Muslim Personal Laws. And, India provides personal law boards for all religious communities.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a non-governmental organisation which aims to educate Muslims on the protection and application of Islamic laws, had opposed moving ban on Triple Talaq and polygamy, out of which the latter is illegal in India.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 deals with the rights of Muslim women divorced by their husband and other related matters.
However, Indian nationals, including Muslims, can opt to marry under the secular Special Marriage Act enacted by the Parliament of India in 1954.
Key Highlights in the Triple Talaq Bill
- The Lok Sabha passed a reworked Bill to make Triple Talaq or Instant Divorce a punishable offence. It secured a majority of 245-11 votes.
- The Opposition, however, put forth an argument on three points. The first was questioning the 3-year jail term for husbands stating no other religion has any punishment created for husbands guilty of desertion. The second argument enquired about the source who would provide maintenance to the wife while the husband is in jail. The last asked if hardline tactics like these would help in uniting an creating harmony in the family.
- The government introduced three provisions to prohibit the misuse of the law. The first amendment allows only a woman or her close relative to file a police case against the husband. The second permits her to drop the case if the couple reaches a nexus. The third says that the magistrate can decide on the husband’s bail only after hearing the wife’s case/plea.
- Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s introduction on the Triple Talaq Bill at 2 pm on December 22, 2018 was met with an uproar. Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge said the Bill must see scrutiny by a joint select committee. He claimed several provisions of the bill were “unconstitutional.”
- Congress’s Sushma Dev retaliated saying that ‘the Bill is not about empowering Muslim women, it is about penalising a Muslim man.’
Clarification over the revised Triple Talaq Bill
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Opposition should not “weigh the Bill on scales of politics. He also rejected the charge that it is intended for a particular community. The Bill is aimed at “justice for women, dignity of women, and respect for women,” clarified Prasad.
On the Oppositions objections, Prasad countered back. He said ‘yeh apatti sirf triple talaq par hi kyun (why this objection only for triple talaq)?’ mentioning other penalties on dowry and rape. He also maintained that the Bill neither aims to target a particular community nor is it for the ‘vote banks.’