The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill that makes the practice of instant triple talaq a criminal offence with a three-year jail term, after the Modi government rejected the Opposition’s demand to refer the legislation to a joint select committee of Parliament.
The four-hour debate on the Muslim Women (Protection of Marriage) Bill saw a united Opposition accusing the government of acting with an aim to target a particular community, a charge that was rejected by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
As Prasad also turned down the demand for referring the bill to a joint select committee of Parliament for further scrutiny, the entire Opposition — barring the CPM, BJD and a few smaller parties — staged a walkout.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018 was passed by the Lower House with 245 voting in favour of the legislation and 11 opposing it. The bill will now go for approval of the Rajya Sabha where the Opposition is better placed to stall the legislation. The Opposition questioned the three-year jail term for the husband, contending that there was no such punishment for desertion in any other religion and there was lack of clarity on who would provide maintenance to the wife once the husband is in jail.
“Don’t weigh the bill on the scales of politics. The bill is about humanity and justice,” Prasad said.
The government decided to bring a bill making instant triple talaq a criminal offence in December 2017, a few months after the Supreme Court ordered the practice illegal. The bill was passed on December 28 last year in the Lok Sabha, but never taken up in the Rajya Sabha as the Opposition wanted it to be referred to a select committee.
In September, the government promulgated an Ordinance describing the practice of instant triple talaq as a “constitutional emergency”.
Prasad said the government has already taken note of the concerns expressed by the members earlier and amended the bill accordingly.
The bill has made the offence compoundable, meaning the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise, and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the law’s misuse, the law minister said.