Opinion | Will triple talaq bill help community?

Opinion | Will triple talaq bill help community?

A scene from a protest against the Triple Talaq Bill. (PTI file photo)

"To protect the rights of married Muslim women" the bill is introduced, says the introduction to The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018. Scrapping arbitrary action that affects only one community will undoubtedly empower them. However, this law does not seem to be helping the Muslim community because it not only annuls triple talaq but also criminalises the husband for doing so.

A civil issue - the marriage contract - is being treated by criminal law with non-bailable charges, imprisonment and nearly impossible clauses of alimony. Even the option for bail was not included in the initial bill (of 2017). The clause was added later after the Opposition cried foul.

Consider this: A husband pronounces triple talaq and the wife decides to file a case against him. The husband can then be put behind bars for up to three years and shall be liable to pay a fine. During this time, the "Muslim woman upon whom talaq is pronounced shall be entitled to receive from her husband such amount of subsistence allowance, for her and dependent children, as may be determined by the Magistrate," the Act says. How can someone provide a subsistence allowance when he is in jail?

Also, the marriage contract continues even if he completes the three-year term. They have to undergo the legal procedure for separation.
While the Opposition parties have called for the bill to be sent to the Select Committee for deeper scrutiny, the Government cites an 'emergency' to pass the bill as the triple talaq cases are still being reported.

Despite the Supreme Court setting aside talaq-e-biddat, the reason for two draft laws (2017 and 2018) and an ordinance (2018) is that the government feels "there is a need for State action to give effect to the order of the Supreme Court and to redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce." However, laws like this have not proven to be effective in ending social evils. More guidance within the community is required rather than treating it as a criminal offence.

Many people also fear that Muslim women will misuse the Act to take revenge on husbands. Rights protection laws cannot always be scrutinised over the issue of misuse. The same arguments were used to water down the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and other women's rights bills. The issue with the bill is that it does not serve the intended purpose.

"The legislation would help in ensuring the larger Constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help subserve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment," the bill says. It has to be noted that banning the act of triple talaq is not the issue. Gender justice cannot be achieved by demonising a community over a civil contract.