New Delhi : A bill that makes the instant "Triple Talaq" a criminal offence and proposes a three-year jail term for a Muslim man who divorces his wife by uttering the word "talaq" thrice, was introduced today in the Lok Sabha, which is expected to pass it this evening. It could, however, get stuck in the Rajya Sabha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a meeting of BJP parliamentarians this morning that he hopes the bill will be passed in Parliament with the consensus of all parties.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who tabled the legislation, said it was a "historic day for India" and a "significant step towards women empowerment, women's respect and women's rights." The bill, the minister, said is about justice and respect for women and not about any religion or community.
Several parties opposed the bill's introduction, including the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), whose chief Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that the bill "does injustice to Muslim women," violates the Right to Freedom and that Muslims were not consulted in its drafting.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a meeting this morning of top leaders on the issue and the party has emphasised that it supports "any move to abolish the Triple Talaq," though it has questioned the jail term provision and has sought some changes in the bill."We need to strengthen the bill to protect women. If a man who abandons his wife and family is sent to jail how will he give them maintenance?" said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala outside Parliament.
The amendments suggested by the Congress will also be voted upon today when the bill is put to vote in the Lok Sabha. The government has a big majority in the house and so the bill will sail through. But with the Congress seeking amendments in the Rajya Sabha, the bill will have to be sent to a parliamentary committee for review and is unlikely to be passed in the winter session.
Already the government side is depleted in the Rajya Sabha, with the "Triple Talaq" bill being opposed by parties like the Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK, considered government-friendly as they regularly help it pass bills. The ruling BJP and allies are in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and so need the help of such parties to push bills.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, which draws substantial support from Muslim voters, has not made its stand on the bill clear yet.
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said after the BJP meet this morning that the government will try to evolve a consensus on the bill in Rajya Sabha by talking to different parties, a process that he said has already begun.
The Supreme Court had in August this year held that the "Triple Talaq" is unconstitutional. Muslim women had petitioned the court, arguing that practice of husbands divorcing them through "Triple Talaq", including by Skype and WhatsApp, not only violated their rights but also left many women destitute.
"Only a law can explicitly ban Triple Talaq, we have to enforce legal procedures to provide allowance and protect custody of children," said Ravi Shankar Prasad as he introduced the bill today, noting that the practice has continued despite the Supreme Court order.
India is one of the few countries where the practice of instant divorce has survived and some Muslim groups have said that while it is wrong, the law should be reviewed by the community itself. Members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said the government has no right to outlaw instant "Triple Talaq", as the move directly interferes with the Muslim personal law.