The Lok Sabha, on Thursday, met to discuss and debate the merits of the triple talaq Bill which makes the practice of giving instant triple talaq a criminal . Also known as talaq-e-, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, passed the Lok Sabha with 245 voting in favour and 11 against the legislation. The bill was passed amidst protests over making triple talaq a penal that could land offenders in jail for three years.
The opposition, led primarily by the Congress, argues that the bill is not since the Supreme Court verdict had already outlawed the practice. Saying that the bill enforces the Supreme Court ban on the practice, protestors demanded that the bill sent to a Parliamentary joint select committee for further deliberations but eventually were turned down.
While Congress questioned the motives behind drafting it, the ruling BJP government insisted that the bill, introduced by the party after the apex court’s 2017 judgement, aims to uplift and empower women. Both parties issued whips to their Lok Sabha MPs to present their respective cases for and against the bill. Here’s what some of the notable members of the house said during the heated debate.
BJP leaders called it a big day for Muslim women and made their case for the bill’s approval, after which they opened the floor to the opposition. Led by Congress, the opposition questioned the very premise of the bill and claimed that the triple talaq bill was a disservice to Muslim women, issuing whips who appealed to the government not to interfere in religious matters.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev argued that the of triple talaq directly violates the Supreme Court ruling which made no mention of the practice anywhere. NK Premchandran also opposed the bill as it makes a criminal act out of a civil . The punishment, according to him, violates the principle of proportionality and is being brought to accrue “political advantage,” he said.
In response, Minorities Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi argued that the nation needs a law for all crimes. “They say when the Supreme Court has already banned triple talaq, why do we still need a law against it. We have laws against rape, murder, robbery and terrorism. They are also illegal, but they also need laws,” he claimed. He further argued, “If you don’t want a punishment, you should not commit the crime in the first place.”
Refusing to accept the bill in its present form, the AIADMK said that the triple talaq bill has the power to destroy families, containing no provision on how other members of the family, including the wife, will be taken care of should the husband be sent to jail for three years. Party leader MP A Raajhaa said the bill is against the Constitution and “has the potential of disturbing the country’s communal harmony”.
Members of the opposition, led by Congress, later staged a walkout over .
In favour of the bill
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had moved the triple talaq bill for discussion, after introducing the fresh bill in Lok Sabha on December 17. The new bill will supersede an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and still pending in the Rajya Sabha. Amidst criticism from the opposition, the government had incorporated some amendments (including the provision for bail) and issued an interim ordinance (inclusive of these changes) in September.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) 2018 replaces this ordinance that had been issued to protect married Muslim women from triple talaqs.
During the debate, Prasad justified the move to criminalise the practice on humanitarian grounds. Adding that 20 Islamic nations had already banned such divorces, he asked why a secular nation like India shouldn’t do the same, further urging the opposition to refrain from looking at the issue through the prism of politics.
“This bill is not against any community, religion or belief. This bill is for the rights of women and about justice,” he is reported as saying by ANI. Another BJP leaders Vijay Goel and Meenakshi Lekhi also agreed, saying triple talaq was a matter of human rights, one that would benefit millions of Muslim women.
Prasad further claimed that an ordinance of sorts was required to implement the SC verdict which alone has failed to ban the practice.
Women continue to be divorced using instant triple talaq across the country on frivolous grounds, Prasad observed, thus necessitating a law, just in case of any other banned practice. Agreeing with him, Lekhi said, “Men cannot be given supreme right to summarily divorce their wives and abandon them,” calling for enforcing the prohibition of divorce by pronouncing “talaq” in Muslim households. According to a government report earlier last week, 430 cases of triple talaq had been noted in the last year, half of which arrived after the Supreme Court .
Groups of women activists staged demonstrations in the national capital to voice their objections to the passage of the bill, which they fear will give rise to Islamic fundamentalism and target progressive sections of the community.
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) said the cannot be different for different communities. “Why such an offence (abandoning wives) when committed by a non-Muslim man is considered to be a civil offence and the same is being criminalised when committed by a Muslim man?” she asked.
CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat also agreed that a dubious agenda drove the criminalisation of a civil crime. Her party also opposed the triple talaq bill, she said, adding, “For no other community law is desertion a ground for arrest. The bill is a masquerade by the Modi government to conceal the reality that it’s agenda is not the protection of the rights of Muslim women but the promotion of its sectarian policies.
“I support the Supreme Court judgment for the end of arbitrary and instant triple talaq, but nowhere has the court given sanction for ,” she further stated.
“Muslim women have much graver problems than this and those are not being addressed,” women’s rights activist Shabnam Hashmi said, while Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, described the bill as “fraud” and said that the “government has taken this step for political gains in view of the upcoming elections to polarise the country”.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius