‘Must for gender equality, justice’: Govt on triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha

Lok Sabha on Thursday took up for consideration the contentious bill to make the practice of instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband.

Moving the bill for consideration, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the legislation was a must for gender equality and justice as despite an August 2017 Supreme Court verdict striking down the practice of instant triple talaq , women were being divorced by ‘talaq-e-biddat’.

He said, since January 2017, 574 such cases had been reported by the media.

The ban on ‘triple talaq’ has been enforced through three ordinances issued by Narendra Modi government as the related bill couldn’t be passed by the previous Lok Sabha.

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A fresh bill was introduced by the new government in June during the ongoing Parliament session.

Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, divorcing through instant triple talaq will be illegal, void and would attract a jail term of three years for the erring husband.

Prasad said to allay fears that the proposed law could be misused, the government had included certain safeguards such as provision of bail for the accused before trial.

While the bill makes triple talaq a “non-bailable” offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. A provision has been added to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”, the minister said.

The Opposition termed the penal provision for the Muslim husband ‘discriminatory’ and also objected to the 3-year jail term for the practitioner of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ as disproportionate and counter-productive. Those opposing the Bill said it was ‘discriminatory’ as it sought to target only Muslim women even when the problem of abandoning-wives was not unique to the community.

Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay drove the above point home by expressing his party’s opposition to the practice of ‘triple talaq’ yet requesting the Centre to drop the 3-year jail term which he called “arbitrary and excessive.” “We support Muslim women who have a problem with ‘triple talaq’. But the Bill is excessive, arbitrary as a jailed husband can’t support his family or give maintenance to his separated wife,” the TMC MP said while demanding that the Bill be referred to a joint select committee.

Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the argument against 3-year jail term was specious and mischievous as it sought to side with the guilty. “Those who do not refrain from ‘triple talaq’ deserve to be jailed,” he said. “All the major Islamic countries had banned “triple talaq” and therefore it couldn’t be argued that there was even a religious ground for opposing it,” he added.

NDA ally JD(U)’s MP Rajeev Ranjan Singh declared that his party will abstain from voting on the “triple talaq” Bill as it was fundamentally opposed to any interference on this matter and added that the Bill was likely to create mistrust within the Muslim community. “The government should instead try to awaken the community to women’s rights,” he said, adding that despite being a part of the NDA, his party had a long standing policy of divergence on controversial issues including common civil code and article 370.