Drop triple talaq bill and its politics

While the monsoon session of parliament, unlike earlier sessions, saw successful completion of a lot of legislative business, one legislation that the government wanted to get passed but could not was the triple talaq bill. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha during the last winter session. The government listed the bill in the Rajya Sabha, with some amendments, on the last day of the monsoon session and wanted it passed. But it has now been deferred to the winter session as the opposition wanted a detailed discussion on it. It is surprising that the government wanted to push through such a controversial and important legislation in haste. The bill seeks to outlaw the practice of instant triple talaq in the Muslim community, but its provisions have invited criticism and concern. In fact, the very need for the bill has been questioned as instant talaq has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

The most objectionable feature of the bill was that it made triple talaq a criminal offence, attracting three years’ imprisonment. The government claims to have diluted the criminal provisions in the new bill with three amendments. One of them is to stipulate that an FIR will be cognisable only if the complaint is filed by the wife, who is the victim, or her relatives, and not by just about anyone, as the original bill had provided. Another amendment allows a magistrate to grant bail to the accused before the start of the trial after hearing the wife and if the husband agrees to provide compensation as stipulated in the bill. The offence will continue to be non-bailable, with no bail provision at the police level. A magistrate can also use his powers to “compound the offence’’ and settle the marital dispute. 

These amendments do not address all the fears and concerns about the bill because its basic flaw of criminalising talaq stays. Divorce should not be a matter of criminal proceedings unless there is violence, which can be dealt with by other laws. Triple talaq concerns divorce and should be treated as a civil matter as other divorce proceedings are. The thrust of the bill strengthens the suspicion that the government is using it to politically target Muslim men in the name of providing justice to the women of the community. The opposition parties continue to have objections and reservations, but the government has said that there is nothing more to discuss. It has little chance of being passed by the Rajya Sabha. The government should desist from taking the ordinance route on the matter.

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Drop triple talaq bill and its politics

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