EDITORIAL | RS must resist triple talaq Bill

The passage in the Lok Sabha of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which bans and criminalises instant triple talaq, was expected because the BJP has a majority in the House. The Bill was passed after the opposition staged a walkout. It seeks to replace the ordinance that the government promulgated in September. Last year also, the Lok Sabha had passed the bill, but it was not passed by the Rajya Sabha. The fate of the bill is not likely to be different in the Upper House this time, too, because the opposition, which is against the bill in its present form, has a majority there. The government has shown a lot of persistence with the Bill. An ordinance is issued only in a situation of extreme urgency. The triple talaq issue did not warrant such urgency, especially when the government knows that the bill would not be passed by the Rajya Sabha. In fact, the very need for the Bill is questionable because the Supreme Court has already made the practice illegal. 

The government went beyond the court’s ruling by not only making triple talaq illegal but also prescribing a three-year jail term for the offending husband. The practice is certainly wrong and unjust and is not sanctioned by the Quran or Sharia law. But marriage is a civil contract, and there is no reason to make triple talaq a crime unless there are other offences like domestic violence, which can be dealt with under other existing laws. The Bill also has incongruities, like mandating that the husband should pay maintenance to the wife when he is in jail. The government says it has incorporated some safeguards in the Bill to prevent its misuse but its basic premise of making triple talaq a criminal offence is wrong and clearly politically motivated.  

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Lok Sabha that there were 477 cases of triple talaq after the Supreme Court’s judgement. But it should be noted that the numbers came down to 177 cases this year from 300 last year. One year is not enough to assess the impact of a court ruling about a social practice. In any case, what is the need for a heavy-duty criminal law to deal with just over 100 cases of illegality in a population of about 200 million Muslims? The bill is intended more to target the Muslim man and the community as a whole than to protect the rights of the Muslim woman. That is the political message conveyed through the Bill. The claim of supporting women’s rights is also insincere, because the BJP is fiercely opposing their rights in Sabarimala.  

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EDITORIAL | RS must resist triple talaq Bill


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