New Delhi: The contentious Bill to ban the practice of triple talaq among Muslims and punish the guilty husband with three years jail was on Thursday passed by the Lok Sabha despite the opposition’s demand for its scrutiny by a Standing Committee.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 which prohibits divorce by pronouncing talaq thrice in one occasion by their husbands was passed with 303 votes in favour and 82 against.
Replying to debate, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who moved the Bill for passage, said the legislation is not related to politics or religion, but “a matter of women’s dignity”.
He said that Muslim women themselves have come up to him to tell him that after this law comes to be, they will celebrate Eid and Independence Day.
Noting many evils among Hindus in the country, such as sati and dowry, were penalised, Prasad said that penal law acts as a deterrent.
He said the only relevant stakeholders when it comes to the Bill are the Muslim women, not the Muslim Boards in the country.
The Minister said the Bill that advocates three years jail for a husband who goes for Triple Talaq was needed to provide gender justice and equality.
Citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 verdict striking down the illegal practice and asking Parliament to bring a law over the issue, Prasad said that women were being divorced by ‘talaq-e-biddat’ which is against gender justice.
He said the apex court had noted that 20 Islamic countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia had outlawed triple talaq. “And if they could do it, why cannot it be done in India which is a secular country?” he asked.
“The Supreme Court has said that triple talaq is arbitrary and unconstitutional and asked Parliament to make a law. When we come up with a law, it is opposed. What should our Muslim women do in this situation? Should our Muslim sisters be left (in this situation)?”
He said the Indian Constitution’s core philosophy was gender justice. “The Indian Constitution is equal for all daughters. So the Bill is needed.”
The Minister said that three ordinances had so been promulgated as a similar Bill moved by the previous Modi government could not get parliamentary approval.
A fresh Bill was introduced by the new government in June. Under the Bill, divorcing through instant triple talaq would be illegal, void and attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
Prasad rejected fears that the proposed law could be misused and asserted that certain safeguards had been put in it including provision for bail before trial.
While the Bill makes triple talaq a non-bailable offence, an accused can approach a Magistrate before trial to seek bail. A provision has been added to allow the Magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”, the Minister said.
BJP ally Janata Dal-United, however, opposed the Bill, saying there was a need to create public awareness on the issue with the help of Muslim community leaders, and then walked out of the house.
Participating in the discussion, JD-U member Rajiv Ranjan Singh said his party believed the Bill would cause harm to the society.
“The Bill will produce a different feeling in the society because no one wants that there should be differences in the relationship between wife and husband,” he said.
Giving examples of misuse of other laws, he said: “You made the Anti-Dowry Act and Section 498A (of the IPC to stop cruelty against women). But these laws are being misused. So if you will make another such law, it will be misused.”
Calling the Bill “politically motivated” to target a particular community, RSP’s N.K. Premachandran said that Supreme Court has never given a directive to the government to make a law on this.
He asked why is the government not ready to make a legislation on mob lynching when it has been directed by the Supreme Court and that consecutive promulgation of Ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution.
IUML’s P.K. Kunhalikutty said the divorce rate of Muslims is very low and accused the government of playing politics. “You have a political agenda, that’s why you are bringing this Bill in a hurry”.
Congress’ S. Jothimani said the government is playing a “divide and rule policy” among women.
“Irrespective of religion, women are subjugated to injustices and have been going through this for years. Rape and marital rape are also important issues that the parliament should take up with the same interest,” she said, adding the Bill goes strongly against the rights of Muslims, and especially Muslim women.
The Bill must be sent to the Standing Committee, she demanded.
AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said that the Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality and adultery, but the government is criminalising talaq. He asked who bears the burden of proof.