- The government introduced The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, also known as the triple ‘talaq’ Bill in the Lok Sabha.
What is triple talaq?
- ‘Triple Talaq’ is a procedure of divorce under the Sharia Law, which is a body of the Islamic law.
- Under this, one of the ways a husband can divorce his wife is by pronouncing ‘Talaq’ thrice. This practice of instant triple talaq is called talaq-e-biddat.
- According to National Commission of Women (NCW), instant triple talaq was a highly misused custom and it urged the government to scrap it to protect the rights of Muslim women.
- The practice has been abolished in 21 countries including Pakistan, but is still prevalent in India.
- The Supreme Court(SC) in 2017 held the Islamic practice of instant triple talaq unconstitutional and struck it down. The apex court found the practice un-Islamic and “arbitrary”, and disagreed with the view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice.
- In December 2017, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, was passed in Lok Sabha, but it got stuck in Rajya Sabha due to opposition by some parties.
- To give effect to the verdict, the central government passed an ordinance in September 2018.
- The Bill that was pending in the Rajya Sabha lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
- The 17th Lok Sabha has now again taken up the Bill.
- Even after the Supreme Court judgement banning the practice, and Ordinance to criminalize it, 543 cases of triple ‘talaq’ were reported in the country.
Reasons for bringing in the Bill:
- To give effect to SC judgement: The Bill will act as a more effective deterrent since there have been cases of triple talaq even after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court.
- No sanction in religion: This practice is banned even in Islamic theocratic countries, thus could have absolutely no base in religion. The Supreme Court also upheld that the practice is not an integral part of Islam.
- Fundamental rights of women: The Bill seeks to ensure the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help sub-serve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill:
- Definition: It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.
- Applicability: The proposed law would be applicable to the entire country, except in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Void and illegal: The Bill makes all declaration of instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp —to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
- Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.) A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to three years along with a fine.
- Allowance: A Muslim woman, against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be decided by a First Class Magistrate.
- Custody of minor children: A Muslim woman, against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The determination of custody will be made by the Magistrate.
Opposition to the Bill:
- Arbitrary law: Many opposition parties opposed the Bill, saying it was arbitrary and a faulty proposal being passed in haste. They demanded wider consultations and changes in the bill including public opinion.
- Lack of scrutiny by Parliament: The opposition also demanded to refer the Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice but government turned down demands.
- Practicality: As per Bill, there is provision of subsistence allowance to be paid by the husband. But critics asked who would pay the subsistence allowance to the wife if the husband was sent to jail. Many also questioned if the government would create a corpus to help the victims.
- Criminalizing a Civil wrong: Typically, divorce related cases are dealt with the civil law. Marriage being a civil contract, its breach either in adultery or divorce, including triple talaq, should have only civil consequences.