After mammoth efforts by the government to make the practice of Triple Talaq a crime punishable by law, Rajya Sabha gave its nod to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill on Tuesday. With this, the practice of saying talaq thrice by a Muslim man to divorce his wife instantaneously has moved closer to becoming a crime. Now, only the President's signature is required.
The Bharatiya Janata Party made a strong case for the criminalisation of Triple Talaq. It maintained that the interests and welfare of Muslim women is the driving force for making Triple Talaq a crime. Union law minister RS Prasad repeatedly said that this here was a matter of women empowerment and that it should not be seen through political prisms. Nonetheless, several parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party kept up the demand for changes. On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad even said in Rajya Sabha that imprisoning a Muslim man for Triple Talaq would result in him either committing suicide or becoming a fugitive when he comes out of jail.
In response, Prasad reminded him that it was the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 that had discriminated against Muslim women. He was referring to the Shah Bano case. Shah Bano, a Muslim mother of five children, was divorced by her husband in 1978. She filed a criminal suit in which the Supreme Court ruled in her favour and she won the right to alimony from her husband. However, the then Congress government, enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The most controversial provision of the Act was that it gave a Muslim woman the right to maintenance for the period of iddat (about three months) after the divorce, and shifted the onus of maintaining her to her relatives or the Wakf Board. The Act was seen as discriminatory as it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which women of other faiths had recourse to under the secular law.
BJP has repeatedly invoked the Shah Bano case to fight against any revolt from Congress in the matter.
The 1400-year-old practice of Triple Talaq among Muslims has widely been regarded as archaic and oppressive against women of the community. Now, a man found guilty of Triple Talaq can be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine.