Triple talaq bill clears Lok Sabha hurdle, major step forward for Muslim women

The Lok Sabha on Thursday cleared the bill which seeks to make instant 'triple talaq' illegal and void with a voice vote.

Triple talaq bill clears Lok Sabha hurdle, major step forward for Muslim women

New Delhi: In a major victory for Indian Muslim women, a bill to make instant 'triple talaq' illegal and void and awarding a jail term of up to three years to the husband was adopted by a voice vote hours after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha amid strong protests by several opposition parties on Thursday.

By introducing the bill, the Narendra Modi government also fulfiled its electoral promise made to several Indian Muslim women victims of triple talaq.

Within minutes of Lok Sabha clearing the bill, widespread celebrations began across the country and Mulsim women distributed sweets and welcomed the move.     

The government earlier rejected an overwhelming demand from the Opposition to refer the legislation to a Parliamentary standing committee for detailed consideration.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by a voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party member NK Premachandran that the legislation be circulated for public opinion.

The government's determination to get the Bill passed could be gauged from the fact that it was introduced in the morning and taken up for consideration in the afternoon by suspending relevant rules and then passed in the evening by sitting late beyond the scheduled close of the House.

During the crucial voting on the bill, two amendments - one moved by AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi and the other by BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab – were defeated in Lok Sabha.

Similar amendments moved by Congress's Sushmita Dev and CPIM's A Sampath were also negated in Lok Sabha.

Introducing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill earlier, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was a "historic day".  He urged the members to pass the measure, saying the bill should not be linked to or seen through the prism of any religion or politics.

"I appeal to this House and the biggest panchayat that please do not see this bill from the prism of politics," he said, adding that, ''it should neither be confined within the walls of political parties nor should it be looked as vote bank politics.''

He said that Muslim women were victimised by instant triple talaq. On August 22, Supreme Court passed a judgement saying it was unconstitutional and arbitrary.

But before he introduced the legislation, several opposition parties opposed its introduction saying it was arbitrary in nature and a faulty proposal.

Members from RJD, AIMIM, BJD, Indian Union Muslim League and AIADMK, who had given the notice to oppose its introduction, spoke against the measure. But members of the Congress and the Left, who were also opposing it from their benches, were not allowed to speak as they had not given notice. 

SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was also seen opposing the bill. The TMC, which had opposed the draft bill earlier, was silent.

While JPN Yadav of RJD questioned the proposed three-year jail term, AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi said Parliament lacks the legislative competence to pass the law as it violated fundamental rights.

He said while the bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the government should also worry about nearly 20 lakh women of various religions who are abandoned by their husbands, "including our bhabhi from Gujarat".

Muslim League's ET Mohammed Bashir said the proposed law was violative of personal laws and was a politically motivated move.

B Mahtab (BJD) said while he would not talk about the merits of the bill, its framing was "faulty and "flawed". 

He said if the proposed law makes the practice of instant triple talaq illegal and void, how can a person be jailed for pronouncing 'talaq-e-biddat'.

A Anwar Raja of the AIADMK opposed the bill.

Soon after the introduction of the bill was approved, Prasad wondered whether Parliament can remain silent if the fundamental rights of women were being trampled upon.

He said the legislation was not aimed against any religion but was framed to provide a sense of justice, security and honour to women. 

He said the law was required as even after the Supreme Court had struck down the practice of 'talaq-e-biddat' in August, it was continuing. Several Islamic nations have regulated triple talaq and India should take a step in this direction, Prasad said while defending the bill.

He claimed that as recently as today, a woman in Rampur was given instant triple talaq by her husband for getting up late.

Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some opposition members claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

"It is a historic day. We are making history today," Prasad said.

The proposed law would only be applicable to instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat' and give power to the victim 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, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp -- would be bad or illegal and void.

According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except in Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of upto three years and a fine. It would be a cognisable, non-bailable offence.

(With PTI inputs)