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Triple Talaq bill to be discussed in Lok Sabha amid Congress din: Activists fear govt wants to 'fuel fear' in Muslim community

The bill which seeks to criminalise the practice of instant triple talaq is headed for Lok Sabha on Friday. The bill has been listed for introduction in the Lower House of Parliament even as ruckus created by Opposition parties, including the Congress, have stalled Winter Session proceedings which started on 15 December.

'Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill', prepared by an inter-ministerial group headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, makes giving instant triple talaq "illegal and void" and provides for a jail term of three years for the husband.

The bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet last week.

Though the bill has been listed in Lok Sabha's agenda papers for tomorrow, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the bill would come up for introduction next week.

According to the provisions, the husband could also be fined and the quantum of fine would be decided by the magistrate hearing the case.

 Triple Talaq bill to be discussed in Lok Sabha amid Congress din: Activists fear govt wants to fuel fear in Muslim community

A representational image. Reuters

The bill is being introduced as the practice still continued despite the Supreme Court striking down 'talaq-e-biddat' (instant triple talaq). A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had declared the practice as “unconstitutional” and not an essential part of Islamic law and faith, but cases of Muslim men divorcing their wives through instant triple talaq did not subside.

The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat' and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking "subsistence allowance" for herself and minor children.

The government has maintained that "the legislation would help in ensuring the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help subserve their rights of non-discrimination and empowerment”.

The government in the recent Winter Session of the Parliament had informed the Lok Sabha that "66 cases of triple talaq were reported" even though the Apex court struck any such form of divorce thus proving that the verdict had failed to act as a deterrent.

Coinciding with the introduction of the bill in the Lok Sabha, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) too has decided to hold an executive body meeting at Nadwa-tul Ulema in Lucknow on 24 December to finalise its response to the bill, News18 reported. The body has released an official letter to its executive members to attend the meeting.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who is a member of the Lok Sabha as well as the AIMPLB, has voiced opposition to the proposed legislation on social media. "This is a draconian and will lead further exploitation & more injustice to married muslim women this is being done by Modi government only for political considerations,burden of proof on women (again) we need law against abandonment married women (sic)," he tweeted.

Under the new proposed law, the woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue. Under the draft law, triple talaq in any form -- spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp -- would be bad or illegal and void.

According to the draft law, which would be applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of three years and a fine. It would be a non-bailable, cognisable offence.

After the Supreme Court order striking down the practice, the government was of the view that the practice would end. But it continued and there have been 177 reported cases of instant talaq before the judgement and 66 after the order this year. Uttar Pradesh tops the list.

Women's activists feel government intends to 'fuel fear' in Muslim community

Meanwhile, women's right activists said that the government intends to "fuel fear" in the Muslim community by criminalising pronouncement of instant triple talaq.

In a press conference held today by Bebaak Collective, an intervener in support of the triple talaq plea by Shayara Bano in Supreme Court, activists and lawyers also questioned why the government was bringing a bill without consulting the civil society and various stakeholders.

According to the draft law, pronouncing instant triple talaq will be considered illegal and void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. It would be a non-bailable, cognisable offence.

"At a time there have been incidents of violence against the Muslim community and no redressal available to them, this bill will give legal power to target the Muslims," said Sadhna Saxena from the Saheli Trust. "The law is intended to fuel fear of the state by being able to walk into your home and incarcerate Muslim men," said Ayesha Kidwai, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Another activist questioned the inherent contradiction in the draft law that renders pronouncement of instant triple talaq void and yet sends the man to jail.

"When the marriage is not broken why send the man to jail. The law will make me a divorcee," said Shabina Mumtaz, a social worker from UP.

She said that the government should instead offer protection to women unlawfully divorced by their husbands.

"If a woman or a man says I have divorced you is that a criminal offence under any law. It is not," senior advocate Indira Jaising, who was also the counsel for Bebaak Collective in the Supreme Court, said, questioning the need to criminalise pronouncing talaq thrice.

The law also promises "subsistence allowance" as well as custody rights to a victim of triple talaq, which Jaising said was another contradiction within the law.

"The moment a divorce is declared null and void the woman has a status of a wife, and in her capacity as the wife she is entitled unrestricted access to the resources of the family and matrimonial home," Jaising said.

Similarly, there was no question of custody of a child being granted to either party when the divorce has been invalidated, the senior lawyer said. Lawyer Vrinda Grover also questioned the rationale behind sending a man to jail for issuing a divorce.

"If the divorce is declared void what is the harm or injury caused to an individual, property or society for which a man is being put in jail. Afterall, for a criminal offence must cause harm or injury," Grover asked.

Activists demanded that the law should ensure that Muslim men cannot seek divorce outside court. They also want the government to address other practices such as polygamy and nikah halala, where a woman has to consummate her marriage with another man before she can return to her former husband.

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Updated Date: Dec 22, 2017 09:22:25 IST