Ordinance is based on Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha last year, but faced stiff resistance in RS.
New Delhi: The Modi government has approved an ordinance making triple talaq — a practice of instant divorce among sections of the Muslim population — a punishable offence.
The ordinance is based on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last year, but faced stiff resistance from the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, where it was argued that the bill be sent to a ‘select committee’ for examination.
According to the bill, the practice of triple talaq was to be made a cognisable and non-bailable offence with up to three years of imprisonment — a move which several opposition leaders alleged would target Muslim men more than it would benefit Muslim women.
In August, the government conceded to the main demands of the opposition and cleared amendments to the draft bill, according to which, only a triple talaq victim or her blood relatives could file a complaint. Also, the government allowed powers to the magistrate to give bail in such cases.
Also read: Modi govt’s triple talaq bill places burden on Muslim women to prove the offence
Supreme Court’s ban
While the Supreme Court had declared the practice of triple talaq unconstitutional last year, the government said there was a need to bring in a law criminalising the practice nevertheless.
This, it had stated, was because despite the SC judgment, the practice had continued unabated and Muslim women could take no recourse to the legal system since there was no law protecting them.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who has been at the forefront of the government’s efforts to criminalise triple talaq, said that there were 389 cases of instant triple talaq in 2017, and as many as 94 such cases were filed after the bill was introduced.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions invoked the “suffering” of Muslim women and promised to liberate them from the clutches of orthodox religious practices. Speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day this year, he said, “I will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Muslim women do not suffer due to triple talaq.”
The government has on several occasions sought to corner the opposition, particularly the Congress, for not taking a stand in favour of Muslim women.
“You are not just the Congress leader, you are a national leader too. You keep talking about the legacy of your family… Would you stand for justice, honour and respect for women? Or would you continue to oppose the Bill?” Prasad had said to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
However, according to government sources, the BJP government’s own minister for women and child development had opposed the bill internally, and distanced herself from it publicly when the government decided to go through with it irrespective of her opposition.
Also read: When it comes to ‘saving’ Muslim women, the Sangh is unrelenting
‘Nikah halala’ next in line
With triple talaq now out of the way, the government is expected to turn its attention to the practice of nikah halala – which is currently sub-judice.
In Islam, if a man divorces his wife three times — after following the complete procedure, not by instant divorce — she becomes haram (forbidden) for him. If they wish to remarry, the woman is required to marry another man, who must then divorce her after the marriage is consummated.
In its affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Centre is expected to oppose the practice and much like it did in the case of triple talaq, will cite examples of Islamic countries, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, that have shunned the practices.