After intense discussion which lasted nearly five hours, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the "Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019", commonly known as Triple Talaq Bill. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on July 25 with 303 'yes' votes against 82 'no' votes.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu declared the Bill passed with 99 'yes' votes and 84 'no' votes.
BSP, TRS, TDP, JD(U) and AIADMK abstained from voting.
The statutory resolution moved by CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem for referring the Bill to select committee was rejected by the house majority. Also rejected was the amendment moved by the opposition for dropping the penal clauses in the Bill.
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.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court had declared the practice of 'triple talaq' to be unconstitutional, by 3:2 majority.
Discussion in House
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.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in the house, recorded the opposition of Congress to criminalization of a civil wrong. The Bill is targeting Muslim minority community, he said. Amee Yajnik from Congress said that that the bill lacked 'thoughtful consideration' and it was dangerous to criminalize matrimonial disputes.
Notably, Janata Dal (United), an ally of NDA, opposed the Bill in the upper house and boycotted the discussion.
Supporting the Bill, Mukththar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister for Minority Affairs, said the it will enforce the SC decision by creating a deterrent effect on pronouncement of triple talaq. He said that the Bill was in the interests of women empowerment and gender equality.
A Navaneethakrishnan from All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIADMK) said that giving jurisdiction to the Magistrate to decide matters relating to custody of children is a lacuna. Custody matters should be dealt with by higher courts. The Bill needs deeper study and should therefore be sent to select committee, the AIADMK MP said, while announcing the party's decision to boycott voting.
Biju Janata Dal, whose stand on the Bill was eagerly watched in view of the lack of majority of BJP in the house of elders, supported the Bill. Prasanna Acharya, BJD member from Odisha, said that the new Bill has accepted all the amendments suggested by it during the previous session.
Binoy Viswam from Communist Party of India (CPI) termed the Bill a 'political misadventure' aimed at polarizing the society. He brought up the names of Zakia Jafri and Bilkis Bano, who lost their husbands in 2002 Gujarat riots, and alleged that BJP's talk of protecting Muslim women was "hypocritical".
K K Ragesh from Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that the Law Minister was misleading the House by claiming that the law was brought as per direction of the Supreme Court. It is the minority judgment by former CJI J S Khehar which issued that direction and the majority judgment has no such direction, he pointed out.
In reply, the Law Minister said that if matrimonial wrongs like dowry, domestic cruelty etc., can be penalized, there was no basis for opposition to criminalization of triple talaq.
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