The lower house of Indian parliament Lok Sabha passed a bill to protect the rights of Muslim women on marriage which is often annulled by men by saying ‘divorce’ (talaq) three times in one breath.
The bill will now be tabled in the upper house or Rajya Sabha on Friday for discussion and vote.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board is planning to challenge the bill if it is made into law. Zafarayab Jilani, a board member, said the only course of action will be to approach the Supreme Court if Paliament passes the bill. Muslims believe in Islamic jurisprudence and shariah gives them the right to divorce, Jilani said.
The bill aims to criminalise this practice, locally called ‘triple talaq’, which the Supreme Court has earlier ruled as unconstitutional and arbitrary. The court also ruled a three-year prison sentence with a fine for anyone who uses ‘triple talaq’ to end marriage.
Federal Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the law is meant to protect women’s rights and ensure them justice. It does not interfere with any religion, prayer or ritual.
But opposition leaders led by lawmakers Assaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Bhartruhari Mahtab of Biju Janata Dal opposed the bill.
Owaisi said the bill is not required as ‘triple talaq’ is already illegal in the country. The bill violates fundamental rights, lacks legal coherence and the issue must be incorporated in the domestic violence bill, he said.
Owaisi said the government has vested interest in passing the bill and it is doing disservice to Muslim community. He wondered how a ‘triple talaq’ victim would get compensation if her husband is sent to jail.
Mahtab opposed the bill because of “internal contradictions” and the three-year jail sentence provision for offenders.
Congress supported the bill but wanted some changes in the provisions.
The proposed law would give power to a victim of ‘triple talaq’ to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.
The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.
Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, written or electronically conveyed — would be null and void.
According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would be a non-bailable offence attracting a jail term of three years and a fine.