The bill’s intent is criminal
The BJP led government it seems is leaving no stone unturned to criminalize instant divorce among Muslims. Though the Muslims in India described the Triple Talaq bill right from the day it was conceived as an attempt to persecute Muslims.
The LokSabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill, 2018 despite vociferous protests from opposition parties.
The bill — popularly known as the Triple Talaq bill — criminalizes instant divorce, the practice whereby a Muslim husband can divorce his wife simply by saying “talaq” three times. The bill means that any man doing so will face jail if a complaint is filed against him by any of the wife’s relatives.
However, what has been ignored by the right wing party is the concerns that have gone unnoticed while passing the bill. The bill disregards the fact that the very objective or purpose of the bill has earlier been achieved through a SC verdict.
The Supreme Court in ShayaraBano’s case has held that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is manifestly arbitrary, and therefore, unconstitutional. An act that has no legal consequences being made a criminal offence, cognisable and non-bailable is manifestly arbitrary and therefore, violative of Article 14.
There seems to be no rationale to criminalise the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and imprison Muslim men. The effect of the Supreme Court’s judgment is that the marriage is legally valid and the persons continue to be lawfully wedded.
Since Muslim marriage is a civil contract between two adult persons, the procedures to be followed on its breakdown should also be of civil in nature. The move to use penal action to discourage the practice of instant triple talaq is a myopic view as it leaves many other issues of economic and social security of women unaddressed.
Had the present government been so concerned about the rights of Muslim women then it should have strengthened the negotiating capacities of women by providing them economic and socio-legal support rather than criminalising the pronouncement of triple talaq.
As the SC has already pronounced a verdict on the triple talaq issue, the pronouncement of triple talaq having no legal consequences on the marriage means that such a proclamation by a Muslim man is essentially a desertion of the wife.
Therefore, in any of the Personal Laws, the desertion of wife by a man is not a criminal offence. Therefore, while the bill aims to criminalise the pronouncement of talaq, in effect, it is only criminalising the act of desertion of a Muslim wife by her husband.
The intent of the bill can also be gauged from the fact that no economic and socio-legal support is provided by the government in the bill to women, children and other dependents, when the erring men are put behind bars.
The Muslims across India have been raising their voice against the passing of the bill and if Muslims adhere to their conduct and follow the principles of Islam for governing their lives, the bill will die a silent death.