After intense discussion which lasted nearly five hours, the Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the "Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019", commonly known as Triple Talaq Bill.
The motion to consider the Bill was passed with 303 'yes' votes against 82 'no' votes. After clause by clause discussion, the Speaker Om Birla announced the Bill passed based on voice vote.
The Triple Talaq Bill passed in last year's winter session during December 2018 had got lapsed as the Rajya Sabha did not clear it before the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha.
After that, the Centre brought in Triple Talaq Ordinance on February 21, which is sought to be replaced by the present Bill.
"Talaq" for the purposes of the Bill means "talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce pronounced by a Muslim husband".
Clause 3 of the Bill declares pronouncement of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void and illegal. Pronouncement of triple talaq is proposed to be made an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years and fine.
Cognizance of the offence can be taken only on complaint is lodged by the victim wife or her close blood relatives. Also, the offence will be compoundable at the instance of the wife on such terms and conditions as deemed fit by the Magistrate. The offence is also bailable, and Magistrate can grant bail, but only after hearing the wife. The Bill provides for grant of custody of the minor child to the wife, and also maintenance suitably determined by the Magistrate.
The present Bill changed some of the contentious provisions in the earlier Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2017. As per the earlier version, the offence was cognizable, which meant that anyone could have lodged FIR in respect of the practice. Also, the offences were non-bailable and non-compoundable as per the previous Bill.
Tabling the Bill, Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the practice of triple talaq was rampant despite the SC declaring it void. He claimed that 345 cases of triple talaq have been reported after the SC verdict in August 2017. He added that more than 20 Islamic countries have regulated this practice.
Objections of opposition
Several objections were raised by the opposition members to the Bill. N K Premachandran, MP from Revolutionary Socialist Party, moved a resolution stating that the Bill criminalized a civil wrong.
Why punishment for divorce is imposed only on Muslim community, he asked.
He also said that the provisions in the Bill were contradictory. The Bill says that the wife is entitled to claim maintenance from husband. If the husband is imprisoned, how can he provide maintenance, asked the MP from Kollam, Kerala. The Bill causes division in Muslim family by separating a man from his wife and children through strong arm of law, he said.
P K Kunhalikutty from Indian Union Muslim League demanded that the government should hold consultations with Muslim community and take them into confidence before moving the Bill. The Bill is totally unnecessary as the percentage of divorce in Muslim community is very less, he said.
Asadudddin Owaisi, AIMIM MP from Hyderabad, moved resolution to drop the criminal provisions in the Bill. He said that Bill was against the spirit of Supreme Court judgments which decriminalized adultery and homosexuality.
Meenakshi Lekhi from BJP said that the Bill attempts to remove gender injustice within Muslim personal law. She likened the Bill to the Hindu Code mooted by Dr Ambedkar to reform Hindu personal laws on marriage and succession.
Gaurav Gogoi, Congress member from Assam disputed the claims of the Law Minister that the Bill was brought as per the directions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not asked for criminalization of triple talaq, he said. No country in the world which has banned triple talaq has made it an offence, Gogoi pointed out.
DMK MP Kanimozhi said that the government's claims that the Bill was for ensuring gender justice were hollow. If the government is so concerned about women's rights, why no law against marital rape is made, she asked.
A M Arif, CPI(M) member from Alappuzha, said that the law will push Muslim minority community into a climate of fear.
Why should a Muslim man be jailed for deserting his wife, when no such punishment is given to a Hindu or Christian man doing the same, asked Galla Jayadev, TDP member from Guntur.
Responding to the objections regarding criminalization of triple talaq, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that even Hindu Code has penal provisions. As per Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, second marriage is a criminal offence, he said. He said that several Muslim women were looking forward to the law, which will liberate them.
The Bill will become law if cleared by the Rajya Sabha as well.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court had declared the practice of 'triple talaq' to be unconstitutional, by 3:2 majority.
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