The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 December 2017 approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that seeks to criminalise instant triple talaq among Muslims.
According to the Union government, it is aimed at protecting the dignity and security of women in the Muslim community. The draft bill proposes that triple talaq should be made a cognisable and non-bailable offence that would attract a jail term of three years.
The bill is now, expected to be tabled during the on-going Winter Session of Parliament, which commenced on 15 December 2017.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has called the cabinet clearance of the bill a direct attack on the religious freedom of the Muslim community.
According to the President of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB), Shaista Amber, “the Supreme Court had banned triple talaq in the light of Quran. Hence, any new law should be prepared in the light of Quran. If it is not so, then no Muslim woman will accept it.”
The women activists, on the other hand, have sought the collective support of political parties in converting the Bill into a law.
The draft law was prepared in the backdrop of Supreme Court’s verdict on 22 August 2017, which held the Islamic practice of ‘instant’ triple talaq as unconstitutional.
The verdict was delivered by a 5-judge bench led by the then Chief Justice J S Kehar. All the 5 judges belonged to 5 different religions.
The verdict came out in a ratio of 3:2, as two judges including the Chief Justice voted to uphold the practice saying that it cannot be declared illegal, while others deemed it unconstitutional and banned it for a period of 6 months till the government introduced a new law.
The court also held that instant triple talaq is against the basic tenets of Quran and not an integral part of Islam.
What is instant Triple Talaq?
• It is a traditional Islamic divorce practice that allowed men to be free of their marriage by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ three times in either verbal or written form.
• The man need not cite any cause for divorce. It was also not necessary for the wife to be present at the time of pronouncement.
• After a period of iddat, which means counting of days to ascertain whether a woman is pregnant or not, the divorce becomes final.
• In the recommended form of practice, a waiting period was required before each pronouncement, in order to give time for reconciliation. However, in recent times it had become common to make all three pronouncements in one sitting.
• The practice became more controversial in recent decades when men started increasingly using the practice to get rid of their wives for petty reasons.