The new version of the bill with a provision for bail is expected to win support of the Congress and other Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha.
New Delhi: Allaying fears that the proposed law against triple talaq — which makes the practice of instant divorce among Muslims illegal and imposes a jail term of up to three years on the husband — could be misused, the Centre on Thursday approved certain safeguards like a provision for granting bail to the accused before trial.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here that the Union Cabinet has approved three amendments to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill that was cleared by Lok Sabha in December and is pending approval of Rajya Sabha.
The new version of the bill with a provision for bail is expected to win support of the Congress and other Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have a majority.
With Friday being the last day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the government could introduce the amendments in Rajya Sabha. If the Upper House clears it, then the bill will have to be sent back to Lok Sabha for getting the amendments cleared. Thus, the bill’s fate may now be decided only in the Winter Session of Parliament.
Despite the proposed amendments, including the provision for grant of bail by a magistrate to an accused husband, giving instant triple talaq will continue to be illegal and void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. While the proposed law will remain “non-bailable”, an accused husband can approach a magistrate before trial to seek bail. Under a non-bailable law, bail cannot be granted by the SHO at the police station itself.
Mr Prasad said a provision has been added to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”. Sources said that the magistrate would ensure that bail is granted only after the husband agrees to grant compensation to the wife.
Mr Prasad wondered whether the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Trinamul Congress (TMC) would continue to oppose the bill even after insertion of the provision for bail. “Will Soniaji stand for women’s justice and dignity?” asked the minister.
“It is asked if the husband is jailed, who would take care of the wife. Under the Dowry (Prohibition) Act, Muslim husbands and mothers-in-law go to jail, in domestic violence act people go to jail... Don’t Muslim criminals go to jail in other offences ... Why only raise the issue of triple talaq,” he told reporters here.
The minister said that in 2017, a total of 389 cases of instant triple talaq were reported. Between Janu-ary and August last year, 229 cases were reported.
“This shows that the bill is required even after the Supreme Court struck down triple talaq as illegal last year,” he quipped.
Even after the bill was introduced in Parliament, 160 cases were reported.
“There were fears and we have plugged the hol-es... Nothing has been done under pressure,” Mr Prasad said in response to a question whether the government acted under pressure from the Opposition.
Another amendment makes it clear that the police would lodge an FIR in a triple talaq case only if approached by the victim (wife), her blood relations or people who become her relatives by virtue of her marriage and no outsider will be allowed to give a police complaint.
“This would settle fears on misuse of law and prevent situations in which a neighbour can file an FIR as is the case in any cognisable offence,” the minister said.
The third amendment makes the offence of instant triple talaq “compoundable” — giving both parties the liberty to withdraw the case.
A magistrate would also be empowered to use his powers to settle the dispute between a husband and his wife.