Members of the RJD, AIMIM, All India Muslim League, BJD and the AIDMK opposed the Bill in the Lok Sabha. Members of the Congress and Left parties also wanted to speak on the Bill. file photo
The Supreme Court had declared the practice unconstitutional four months back.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 makes talaq-e-biddat (or pronouncement of 'talaq' thrice by a man on his wife for instantly divorcing her) illegal and a cognizable and non-bailable offence. It provides that a man committing the offence might be imprisoned for up to three years and might have to pay fine as well. The Bill also seeks to entitle a woman to get the custody of her minor children as well as subsistance allowance from her husband in case he pronounced the Triple Talaq on her.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who piloted the Bill in the Lok Sabha, said that it was a historic move by the BJP-led government to protect and empower Muslim women and ensure gender-justice and gender-equality.
The government introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal for consensus on criminalizing the practice of Triple Talaq.
Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress in the House, and several other MPs of the opposition parties, demanded that it should be sent for vetting by a parliamentary standing committee. The government, however, pushed the Bill through, as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan accepted the Law Minister's request to allow it to be considered and passed on Thursday itself.
The Bill, once turned into a law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha, will be applicable across the country, except in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Congress did not oppose the Bill, but pointed out certain loopholes in it and questioned the rationale of criminalizing the Triple Talaq, underlining that the practice had already been set aside by the Supreme Court on August 22. The MPs of other oppostion parties like the BJD, CPM, AIADMK, SP, RJD and the RSP also raised similar questions.
Prasad, however, said that the government had introduced the Bill, as the practice of Triple Talaq continued even after the Supreme Court on August 22 last declared it illegal. He said that the government was aware of nearly 100 cases of Muslim men pronouncing Triple Talaq to instantly divorce their wives, but police could not act against them due to absence of a law. He said that practice of Triple Talaq continued although the All India Muslim Personal Law Board had committed to the Supreme Court that it would issue an advisory against it.
"This Bill, once turned into a law, would act as a deterrent (against practice of triple talaq)" Prasad said, dismissing the allegation by some opposition MPs that the government was pushing through the Bill to reap political dividends out of it. He also stated that several Islamic nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan had regulated Triple Talaq.
Sushmita Dev of the Congress questioned if a man was put behind the bars after practicing Triple Talaq, which had already been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, on his wife, how he would give her the subsistence allowance the proposed legislation provided for. She wondered if the government would create a corpus for providing financial assistance to women, who would fall victim to the regressive practice of triple talaq.
Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen alleged that Government trying to demonize the entire Muslim community through the Bill and making a move towards Uniform Civil Code. He also took a dig at Modi. "While the Bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the Government should also worry about nearly 20 lakh women of various religions who are abandoned by their husbands, "including our bhabhi from Gujarat," he said, making a veiled reference to Prime Minister's wife Jashodaben.
Referring to the Shah Bano case of mid-1980s, Meenakshi Lekhi of the BJP criticized the opposition Congress of indulging in politics of appeasement overlooking the plight of Muslim women. "I want to tell the Muslim women of the country that as long as you have a brother like Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, you do not have be scared of anyone," she said.
M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs in the BJP-led Government, questioned the credibility of the AIMPLB. He referred to the verses of Quran to drive home the point that Islam preached utmost respect for women. He said that the Triple Talaq had so far been misused by Muslim men to intimidate women.