Women’s groups such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) welcomed the Union Cabinet’s decision to clear a law that would criminalise instant triple talaq even as a meeting of the members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and senior leaders of the Muslim community will be held on December 17 to formulate a response. The Union Cabinet met on Friday afternoon and cleared legislation for the same, and the new Bill is expected to be tabled in this Parliament session itself.
“We welcome this Bill, and we would want this to be discussed in Parliament and opened for wider consultations,” said BMMA chief Zakia Soman who has been at the forefront of demands for reforms in Muslim personal law.
“We also want a codified Muslim family law that would be within the ambit of the Quran and comply with the Constitution of India, somewhat on the lines of the Hindu Code law and the Christian Personal Law that was also reformed with regard to gender equity,” she said.
AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jillani struck a more cautious note after the board’s legal fight on the issue to prevent what they termed as interference of the State in community law matters.
“A meeting of the office-bearers of the AIMPLB and of some other important Muslim leaders is to be held on December 17 which will decide about the response of Muslims to this Bill,” he said.
Owaisi opposes bill
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi however opposed the Bill , shooting off a seven-page letter to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressing his concern that “a constitutional value as important as gender justice is being used to merely further cynical political goals. In the absence of broad consultations or any sound legal basis for the introduction of such legislation, there is absolutely no chance of significant legal policy questions being addressed or discussed,” he said.
He also attached a memorandum dealing with the legal and policy ramifications of criminalising triple talaq.
“It must be noted that the legal effect of Shamim Ara and Shayara Bano cases is that the issuance of ‘talaq’ unilaterally and in one sitting is bad in law, and therefore is of no legal value. Therefore, legally, at best, the issuance of such triple talaq can be considered as abandonment under existing law, including the Indian Penal Code. Furthermore, since such talaq will not be considered legally valid, a Muslim husband will continue to be bound by legal obligations to his wife. It is therefore absurd that a special law is being considered when existing legislation would be sufficient to provide appropriate remedies to Muslim women at the receiving end of triple talaq,” he said.
He also suggested that the AIMPLB, the main party in the legal case, be consulted in the drafting of the Bill before it is passed by Parliament.