Law to ban instant triple talaq on anvil; govt may move Parliament this Winter Session
The government had set up a ministerial panel and will either bring a new law or amend existing provisions to ban instant triple talaq and punish those practising it as ordered by the Supreme Court.
The Narendra Modi government plans to bring in legislation to ban instant triple talaq, or talaq-e-biddat, in the Winter session of Parliament, providing a legal framework to prosecute Muslim men calling off marriages using a custom outlawed by the Supreme Court.
Government sources said on Tuesday that the government had set up a ministerial panel and will either bring a new law or amend existing provisions to ban talaq-e-biddat and punish those practising it.
Talaq-e-biddatinvolves Muslim men divorcing their wives by mentioning the word ‘talaq (divorce)’ three times in one go, sometimes over email, WhatsApp messages or letters. In August, the top court had struck down the custom as arbitrary and unconstitutional in a verdict that was hailed as a watershed moment for gender justice in India.
But in the next few months, several complaints of instant triple talaq poured in from across the country with Muslim women saying they were divorced through the custom despite the SC order. “Even police are helpless as no action can be taken against the husband in the absence of punitive provisions in the law,” the sources said. The government’s proposed move could help plug that loophole.
“It is to this end that the positive step being taken by the government of enacting a legislation will go a long way in deterring the Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives…,” the sources added. They said the reason behind the new cases of triple talaq could be lack of knowledge about the SC decision, or the absence of legal punishment.
Muslims organisations reacted to the government’s decision with caution.
Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, who is a member the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said the government should consult all stakeholders before introducing a legislation in Parliament. “Whatever the present government is doing it is sync with the apex court verdict,” he said.
Siddiqullah Chowdhury, minister in charge of library and mass education in the West Bengal government, said “quashing” Muslim law through legislation will be wrong. “The government can certainly table a Bill on the basis of the Supreme Court judgement. But I think the right to talaq comes under the purview of Muslim personal law, and quashing it through legislation may tantamount to interfering with fundamental rights,” said Chowdhury, who is the president of the Bengal unit of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an organisation thatruns the largest number of madrasas in the state.
Mohammad Kamruzzaman, general secretary of the All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, too wanted the government to consult Muslims. “Interference of the government in this matter is not desirable,” he said.
Shaista Amber, president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board Shaista Amber, welcomed the government’s decision. “I want to thank the judges of Supreme Court for banning triple talaq and I’m happy that the government is keeping its promise of making a law within six months of the SC verdict,” she said.
The top court in August said instant triple talaq was against the tenets of Islam and violated gender equality. Its decision came on the petitions of several Muslim women affected by the custom. The ensuing debate forged an unlikely coalition between women groups, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which wanted the law quashed, against some Muslim outfits that contended the state had no right to interfere in religious matters.
Talaq-e-biddat is banned in 22 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. Muslim men in India can still divorce using two other forms of talaq that have a three-month cooling off period.