The triple talaq bill, officially known as the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday in a significant win for the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, which first introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha in December 2017.
The ruling BJP, which does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House, was able to pass the bill facilitated by support from the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal and walkouts by BJP allies JD(U) and AIADMK. The contentious legislation had lapsed in the first term of the Modi government, which had then promulgated an ordinance in February this year.
The Rajya Sabha passed the triple talaq bill, which makes the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims a criminal offence, with 99 votes in favour and 84 against the legislation.
What does the triple talaq bill state?
The triple talaq bill, which will replace the ordinance and follows a 2017 Supreme Court verdict declaring the practice as unconstitutional, makes the declaration of talaq-e-biddat or pronouncing 'talaq' three times in spoken, written or through SMS or WhatsApp or any other electronic chat in one sitting illegal.
Talaq-e-biddat is the practice of pronouncing the word 'talaq' three times by a Muslim man, which results in an "instant and irrevocable" divorce. The most significant feature of the triple talaq bill, which was vehemently objected by the Opposition including the Congress and AIMIM, is the jail sentence of three years stipulated against the accused.
Criminalising the offence, it gives a police officer powers to arrest the offender without requiring a warrant. However, after repeated objections, the government also added a provision of bail for the accused, depending on a magistrate's discretion after hearing the account of the aggrieved woman. She is also entitled to demand a maintenance for her and her dependent children under the bill. The magistrate is also given the power to set the subsistence allowance for the woman and decide which of the parents gets custody of the children.
To check misuse of cognisable nature of the offence, the triple talaq bill makes declaration of talaq-e-biddat only if the complaint is filed by the aggrieved woman or any of her relation by blood or marriage.
Reportedly, the triple talaq bill also has a provision for reconciliation between the couple without the process of nikah halala, which is the practice of a divorced Muslim woman having to marry another man and consummate the marriage before getting a divorce from him. Only then is she eligible to reconcile with her former husband.
"The triple talaq bill also provides scope for reconciliation without undergoing the process of nikah halala if the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings and settle the dispute," India Today reported.
Arguments for and against the bill
Congress and AIMIM MPs Shashi Tharoor and Asaduddin Owaisi spearheaded the Opposition's arguments against the bill in the Lok Sabha, when it was introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament.
Tharoor said that the bill was merging civil and criminal law, asserting that he was against the practice in itself. "He claimed it was a textbook example of class legislation as it was pointed at one community — Muslims — even though abandoning wives is not unique to it. Tharoor said there should be a law universally applicable to all in case of abandoning wives," The WEEK reported.
Owaisi, however, taunted the BJP over its campaign against the Supreme Court's order allowing women entry into the Sabarimala temple in September 2018. He said the saffron party has "so much affection" for Muslim women, but is "opposed to the rights of Hindu women to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala".
On the other hand, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad replied to the four-hour debate in the Parliament on Tuesday and attempted to allay the concerns of the Opposition. He cited jail provisions in the legislations that ban dowry and multiple marriages by Hindu men to justify the three-year jail term for Muslim men practicing triple talaq.
The minister said he cannot leave in lurch women who have been divorced by triple talaq via WhatsApp or other such means. "Should I leave them (Muslim women) crying and sobbing on the foothpaths," Prasad, adding the government will not hesitate to stand by them and do justice to them.
On the Opposition's charge of BJP being anti-Muslim, he said no religion centric issues were raised when reforms in Hindu Marriage Act were carried out in wholesale. The law minister said the BJP may be getting a little lesser votes from the Muslim community but it considers them very much a part of the country and works on the principle of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas'.
Prasad said the bill should not be seen through a political prism as it is a matter of humanity, woman empowerment and gender equality.
However, the Opposition maintained its stand that the bill must be referred to a select committee of the Parliament. Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Opposition has been forced to vote against the bill after the government did not accept their demand to send it to a select committee and make triple talaq a civil offence.
The Opposition parties say in its current form, the proposed law could be misused to harass Muslims and wanted it to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee.
Updated Date: Jul 31, 2019 10:54:24 IST