The Triple Talaq bill was passed in the Lok Sabha today, which criminalises the practice of divorcing a Muslim woman by just saying the word ‘talaq’ three times. The bill also proposed a three year imprisonment for the husband who practices it and it will a non-bailable charge. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his optimism that it will be passed there too with the consensus of all the parties.
While the BJP leaders congratulated the Prime Minister for introducing such a bill and called it a historic day marking the beginning of women empowerment in India, few also criticised it. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who tabled the legislation, said it was a “historic day for India” and a “significant step towards women empowerment, women’s respect, and women’s rights.” The bill, the minister, said is about justice and respect for women and not about any religion or community.
However, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen Party President Asaduddin Owaisi said that it will be an injustice to the Muslim women if the bill was passed. He also added that it will lead to the abandonment of Muslim women as the bill violates fundamental rights and lacks legal coherence. He further added that the bill instead of giving justice to the Muslim women will bring them more injustice. On the other hand, the Shia Waqf Board applauding the bill said that the punishment set for the person violating the triple talaq law should be made more stringent.
Only hours after the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, was passed in the Lok Sabha, The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, criticising the bill said that it would take steps to amend improve or scrap the bill.
The voices of the Women’s rights groups also differed on the issue, some were praising it while others were criticising it. The Bharatiya Muslima Mahila Andolan supporting the bill said that finally the voices of the Muslim women have been heard. Zakia Soman a member of the Bharatiya Muslima Mahila Andolan said that “Until now a big section of the citizenry, the Muslim women, were denied legal protection, which is not acceptable.”
While many others like senior advocate Indira Jaising did not support the passing of the bill in a single day. According to the media reports, Jaising in her statement to the press said that “Very shocked to hear that Lok Sabha has passed the bill. I would have expected the bill to go to the Standing Committee before it came to the Lok Sabha, which was not done.” She also expressed her discontent with the passing of the bill on Twitter. She tweeted that it was a “shameful display of brute force which had turned Muslim husbands into criminals. This is not what we fought for in the Supreme Court of India. How will it help a Muslim wife who wants to keep her marriage to have her husband sitting in prison?”
Communist Party of India (Marxist ) leader Brinda Karat, also opposing the bill pointed out that the bill had many loopholes and the government had forcefully pushed for it to be passed in the parliament without taking into consideration the opinions of the Muslim women and women organisations. She alleged that “The Bill itself is very objectionable and equally objectionable are the efforts of the BJP to push it through Parliament without any consultation or discussion with those in whose names the Bill has been passed.”
The Communist party leader pointed out that, divorce was not a criminal offense under the Indian constitution and it came under the civil dispute. She further added that “Instead of looking at civil remedies, the government is trying to look at criminal remedies. The Bill itself has many problems which the government needs to look at. There are problems with this Bill which require further discussions. For one, divorce is not a crime in this country … so, therefore, if you want to bring it under criminal law, there are many implications of this which require discussions.”
Regarding these arguments given by the respective leaders, while the Bill was being discussed in the Lok Sabha, the Congress has also proposed to pass the bill to the parliamentary panel as views of the Muslim community had not been taken. But it was argued back that 10 Islamic countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have banned instant talaq. It was also cited that countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan even have penal provisions like jail for one year.
The opposition, however, argued that it is not against the passing of the bill but it has reservations about making instant talaq a criminal offence. Congress leader Sushmita Dev had raised the question that “If you criminalise it how will the woman get her right to subsistence allowance?”
The absurdity of the Triple Talaq Bill is that while on one hand, it is to a limit empowering the women to fight for her justice and not be left away by her husband just by saying ‘talaq’ three times, on the other, it might just increase the worries for her. No doubt the initiative taken is good and in favour of the women, but it also has its side effects like every other decision. The entire fight to criminalise Triple Talaq was done so that the Muslim husbands don’t have the freedom to leave their wives as and when they like, but the question is after the bill is passed, if the Muslim husband practices the banned triple talaq and is sent to jail, with non-bailable charges for three years, the wife is none the less left alone.
The Supreme Court had banned the triple talaq calling it a criminal offence, believing that the couple should be given time for reconciliation. But now with the husband sent to jail for three years that too with a non-bailable offence, there will be no chance of reconciliation. It might just end up creating more problems for the woman, who will have to suffer the social atrocities for sending her husband to jail and also suffer the burden to run the house with the only possible breadwinner in jail.