Lok Sabha passes triple talaq bill with amendments even as Opposition stages walkout; NCW welcomes move

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, commonly known as the triple talaq bill, even as some of the Opposition staged a walkout.

The bill, which proposes to make the practice of instant triple talaq an offence under the Indian Penal Code with the provision of three-year jail term for the erring husband, was passed in the Parliament with 245 ayes as opposed to 11 noes. The bill legislation, which replaces an Ordinance issued by the government in September, was passed after the government strongly defended the measure, asserting that it should not be seen from the prism of politics as 20 Islamic countries have already banned the practice and not a secular country like India.

Some Opposition parties, including the Congress, AIADMK and TMC, however, kept insisting on sending the bill to a Joint Select Committee and walked out of the House just before the bill was put to vote as their demand was not accepted. Opposition parties like RSP, AIMIM and BJD moved some amendments which were negated when the bill was taken up for consideration and voting was done for clause by clause amendments.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that the bill be referred to a joint select committee of both Houses for greater scrutiny. He said several provisions of the bill were "unconstitutional". AIADMK leader P Venugopal, TMC's Sudip Bandhopadhyay, AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi and Supriya Sule (NCP) also made similar demands.

Meanwhile, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad — before moving the resolution — said in the Parliament that the bill is not about politics but empowerment and justice for women. Responding to the demand of Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, that the bill be sent to a select committee for study, Prasad said the government has already taken note of concerns expressed by members earlier and amended the bill accordingly.

Prasad told the Lok Sabha that the bill has made the offence compoundable, meaning that the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the law's misuse. "Don't weigh the bill on the scales of politics. This bill is not about any specific religion and community. The bill is about humanity and justice," he said, urging lawmakers of different parties to speak in one voice to support the legislation.

On the other hand, moving his statutory resolution opposing an ordinance issued earlier (which the bill seeks to replace), NK Premchandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) said the bill is bad in law as it seeks to criminalise a "civil wrong" and hence, it should be referred to a select committee.

Also opposing the triple talaq bill in its current form, Congress MP Sushmita Dev on Thursday said the real purpose of the bill was not to empower Muslim women but to "penalise" Muslim men. Demanding that the bill be referred to the joint select committee of Parliament, Dev said criminalisation of triple talaq goes against the Supreme Court verdict. "In the name of empowerment you (the government) have given nothing but a criminal case to women...the aim of the bill is not to empower Muslim women but to penalise Muslim men," she said.

AIADMK's Anwar Raja said that his party is against the bill in the present form. Terming the law undemocratic, he said that it is targeted at one particular community and is a direct infringement on Muslim law. "Marriage is a civil contract, so how can divorce be a criminal offence?" he said, adding that if the husband is sent to jail, the life of women becomes more miserable as there is none to take care of her.

TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said his party is in favour of the protection of women. The party agrees with most parts of the bill but has apprehension over the criminal aspect, he said, adding, the bill should be referred to a joint select committee.

Meanwhile, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi defended the penal provision in the triple talaq bill, saying it is important to instill fear in the minds of those still practising it and rejected suggestions that it was against any religion. Intervening in the debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, the minority affairs minister said acts like murder are against the law but people still commit such crimes and hence, there is provision for punishment.

This is not to victimise anyone but to provide safety and protection to Muslim women, he said, adding that the Muslim Personal Law Board and Ulemas are also against triple talaq. Terming triple talaq as a social evil, he said that the time has come to abolish it. Many Islamic nations have already made it illegal, he said, citing the example of countries like Pakistan that made it illegal in 1956 and Syria in 1953.

Pointing out that India runs on Constitution, not by Sharia, he said the religious sentiment was also raised at the time when the practice of sati and child marriage were abolished. Since most of the concerns of political parties have already been incorporated in the bill, there is no need for sending it to a joint select committee, he said.

Apart from Naqvi, BJP leader and textiles minister Smriti Irani also supported the bill and said that said if the Parliament can enact laws to ban dowry and the practice of sati, it can also approve the bill to ban instant triple talaq. Intervening in the debate in Lok Sabha on the bill to penalise the practice of instant triple talaq, she lashed out at the Congress, saying it missed opportunities to bring a similar law when in power. She also said the 1986 law to protect Muslim women enacted after a Supreme Court order was not strong enough. "Hence", she said, "there is a need for the bill."

Other Opposition parties like the CPM said that the government is batting for the triple talaq bill in Parliament to push its Hindutva agenda in the country. CPM's politburo member and its deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Mohammad Salim said the main concern of the Opposition parties regarding the bill was that it criminalises triple talaq. "The Supreme Court order does not put it in the category of a crime... The judgement of the SC was being forcefully passed by the government to push its political Hindutva agenda," he said, adding that it was an attempt of the government to divert the attention of the public from the failed promises made by the BJP before the elections. He also said this was being done even as a Rajya Sabha committee was deliberating on the issue. Asaduddin Owaisi also questioned the intention of the government behind criminalising triple talaq while it has supported decriminalisation of homosexuality.

However, after the bill was passed in the Lower House, the National Commission for Women on Thursday welcomed the passage of the bill. Reacting to the bill being passed by the Lower House of Parliament, NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said she has seen the sufferings of the Muslim women due to the absence of this legislation. In a signature campaign launched by the women's commission, she said around 10,000 Muslim women came forward for the legislation and wanted it passed as soon as possible. "We welcome the move. We have seen the suffering of the women in absence of the bill and we have long been advocating its passage," she said.

BJP chief Amit Shah also lauded the move and said that the passage of triple talaq bill is a historic step to ensure equality and dignity of Muslim women. He also said that Congress and other parties must apologise for decades of injustice towards Muslim women. Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that it is a historic step towards protection of constitutional rights of Muslim women and ensuring their empowerment. "Congrats to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Congress’ walkout (was) unfortunate. I hope wisdom prevails on them," Naqvi tweeted.

The fresh bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 17 December to replace an ordinance issued in September. Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.

The fresh bill will supersede an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha. The earlier bill was approved by the Lower House. But amid opposition by some parties in the Upper House, the government had then cleared some amendments, including the introduction of a provision of bail to make it more acceptable. However, as the bill continued to face resistance in the Rajya Sabha, the government issued an ordinance in September, incorporating the amendments.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2018 20:59:40 IST

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