Lok Sabha passes Triple Talaq Bill

Congress, AIADMK call for deliberation by select committee, walk out before voting

Updated - December 27, 2018 10:14 pm IST

Published - December 27, 2018 10:08 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Vote counts displayed on an LED screen after the triple talaq debate in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

Vote counts displayed on an LED screen after the triple talaq debate in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, after a heated debate. The opposition Congress and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) staged a walkout before the voting.

The two parties through their floor leaders, Mallikarjuna Kharge and P. Venugopal of the AIADMK had earlier opposed the Bill during the debate and asked that it be referred to a Joint Select Committee for consideration rather than be debated and passed. However, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked members to pass the Bill citing humanitarian considerations with regard to Muslim women suffering under triple talaq.

Replaces ordinance


The Bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 to replace an ordinance issued in September. Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. The fresh bill is proposed to supersede an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha.

In the face of strong objections by the opposition, led by leader of the Congress legislative party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjuna Kharge, Mr. Prasad in his reply said as many as 477 cases of triple talaq have been reported since January 2017 with over 200 coming after the Supreme Court verdict declaring Talaq-e-Bidat as void. He explained the penal provision in the Bill as a deterrent, stating, “deterrent is also important while combating a crime.”

“I am surprised that this House says that triple talaq is wrong but that it wants to keep silent on combating it. When penal provisions were introduced for the Anti-Dowry Act, this House passed such a Bill, penal provisions are there in the Domestic Violence Act as well and this House passed it. So why that objection with regard to this Bill?” asked Mr Prasad.

He said he had incorporated several suggestions made by the opposition during the debate last year on the Bill, including removal of the clause that neighbours of the victim could file a case. “Conditions for bail and mediation have also been added to the Bill as suggested by members,” he said.

The Congress’ attack during the debate was led by president of its women’s wing Sushmita Dev who said the Bill would do nothing to ameliorate the condition of Muslim women other than saddling them with a criminal case.

“This law is not about empowering Muslim women; it is about criminalising a Muslim man,” Ms. Dev said.

N.K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) who also moved several amendments said his “strong objection was to the fact that the Bill criminalises a civil wrong when it is not so among statutes regarding Hindu personal law or even [for] Christians.”

Anwhar Raajhaa of the AIADMK demanded to know why Muslim men were being singled out for punishment under penal provisions. He also said educational and social backwardness was responsible for the condition of Muslim women far more than triple talaq. “Who will provide maintenance to the wife if the husband is in jail?” he asked.

‘Targeting minorities’

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi in an impassioned speech, accused the government of wanting to “go after” Muslim men. “Why have you decriminalised homosexuality and criminalising triple talaq? Because it would be used against us. Sexual minority got choice in Section 377, then why not religious minorities,” Mr Owaisi said.

“If your faith is your faith, then my faith should also be my faith. Your (Government) intentions are not clean. You can bring your own law, but we will not forfeit our religion,” Mr. Owaisi said.

The government also saw ministerial interjections by Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Textile Minister Smriti Irani. “There should be fear in the hearts of those who commit this crime, and the tendency to sell fatwas (religious interpretations) on the streets like vegetables should stop. This country runs on the Constitution and not Sharia law,” Mr. Naqvi said.

The Bill was passed after the Congress and AIADMK walked out and will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

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