Prasad referred to media reports to show that instant triple talaq was still being practised despite the Supreme Court’s ban.
New Delhi: Despite strong criticism from the Opposition over the criminalisation of triple talaq, or Talaq-e-Biddat, the Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019, that will protect Muslim women from instant triple talaq.
The bill replaces the ordinance promulgated in February making instant talaq a cognisable offence and provides for three years’ imprisonment for the husband.
Several parties like the Congress, AIMIM, Trinamul Congress, DMK, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI(M) and JD(U) opposed the bill and demanded it be sent to a standing committee of Parliament for scrutiny.
However, despite strong criticism, the bill sailed through the Lok Sabha, with 303 voting in favour and 78 against. BJP ally JD(U), while opposing the bill, had staged a walkout earlier during the discussion on the legislation.
While responding to the objections raised by members on the bill, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said this law was not discriminatory and all apprehensions expressed by the members had been addressed. He added that since the Congress faltered in 1986 in the Shah Bano case, the NDA had to stand with Muslim women to bring the triple talaq law now. “We laud you (Congress) for dowry prohibition, 498A, domestic violence laws. But had you taken a stand then (in 1986), the credit for this law too would have gone to you, like the other laws. Even with a massive majority of over 400, the Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi backtracked on the Shah Bano verdict, doing grave injustice to Muslim women,” Mr Prasad said.
The minister added that the Shayara Bano vs Union of India case against triple talaq was filed in the Supreme Court in 2013 when the UPA was in power, but no response was filed by that government. “It is when we took over in 2014 and the file came to me, I asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi what to do about it. He told me: ‘Stand with them (Muslim women)’,” the minister said.
“I urge members of the Lok Sabha not to see the triple talaq issue from the prism of religion. It is an issue of gender justice, gender parity and gender dignity…. Gender justice is the fundamental philosophy of India’s Constitution. More than 20 Islamic countries of the world have regulated triple talaq. So why shouldn’t a secular country like India not regulate it by making a law?” Mr Prasad added.
He went on to say that according to Amir Ali’s commentary on Mohammedan Laws, even Prophet Mohammed had directed a person to take back his wife after he had given triple talaq to her. “Similarly, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in its affidavit before the Supreme Court had said that it will direct Muslim men not to practice triple talaq. Did they do anything for that? Many Muslim women had met me and they congratulated me on the passing of the Bill by saying that it was like Id and August 15 celebration for them,” the minister said.
Mr Prasad referred to media reports to show that instant triple talaq was still being practised despite the Supreme Court’s ban. He said between January 2017 till July 24, 2019, 574 cases of triple talaq were reported. Of these, 345 cases were reported after the Supreme Court verdict banning triple talaq and 101 cases were reported after the ordinance.
Opposing the bill, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi asked why the Centre wanted to bring legislation for instant talaq, and not on other things that had been flagged by the Supreme Court. “When SC has decriminalised adultery, homosexuality (IPC 377), you are criminalising triple talaq. Did you bring bills on that (adultery, 377)? You are truly making a new India,” Mr Owaisi said.
He added that this law was against Muslim men. “The burden of proof is on woman... She should be given an opportunity to get out of the marriage,” he said, asking: “What happened to the ministerial panel report on #MeToo?”
Saying that his party welcomes gender justice, Congress MP Tarun Gogoi said the government should have gone for creating public awareness against this social evil, instead of criminalising it with a law. He argued that the bill should be sent to the standing committee for further study before bringing it to the House.
Earlier, JD-U’s Rajiv Ranjan Singh, while opposing the bill, said: “This law creates distrust among a particular community. Nobody wants that a husband-wife relationship should go sour. The relationship between the two is based on trust and consensus. You cannot dictate the husband-wife relationship through a law... Instead of bringing a law, let the particular community decide among themselves... There should be awareness on this issue... You have a public awareness campaign on the cleanliness drive, why not on this?”
The bill has a provision for a complaint by either the aggrieved wife or any person related to her by blood or marriage. A magistrate will have the power to grant bail to the accused only after hearing the aggrieved wife. The aggrieved woman is entitled to seek an subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and dependent children, and also seek the custody of minor children.