India steps closer to making instant Muslim divorce a punishable offence

Many Muslim organisations have opposed what it calls government interference in personal laws of the community
Many Muslim organisations have opposed what it calls government interference in personal laws of the community

20 September, 2018

The Narendra Modi-led Union Cabinet Wednesday approved an ordinance which makes triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a punishable offence. Passed by the Lok Sabha in the last Winter session of the parliament, the Bill got stuck in the Rajya Sabha after facing protests from opposition parties on the criminal provisions in the draft law.

Disregarding resistance from political opponents and the Muslim clergy, the Union Cabinet cleared an ordinance on Wednesday to criminalise instant triple talaq on the ground that the controversial custom, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, was still being used against women of the minority community. This, the minister stressed, has made the ordinance a "compelling necessity and an overpowering urgency".

"The issue of triple talaq has nothing to do with faith, mode of worship. It is a pure issue of gender justice, gender dignity and gender equality", he said.

He also suggested that AIMPLB and women groups should challenge the ordinance in the Supreme Court.

Prasad said there were instances of men divorcing their wives over the WhatsApp messaging app or for reasons such as their poor cooking.

"Women are being oppressed, they are suffering".

She was one of the five petitioners in the case against instant triple talaq. "Whatever we have collected is shocking", he said.

In India, triple talaq has continued because of laws that give Muslims, Christians and Hindus permission to follow religious laws in marriage and other family issues.

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"The core component of this ordinance is that an offence will be cognisable only when the FIR is filed by the victim wife or her close relations by blood or marriage", said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Some said the ordinance ignores problems it could pose to Muslim women and there is need for a comprehensive law, while the Congress said what needed to be done after the Supreme Court quashed this practice was to provide justice to an abandoned Muslim woman and jailing the husband might not serve the goal.

Earlier, Mr. Prasad told reporters that a magistrate could exercise discretion to grant bail "after hearing the wife".

He said the objective was not to break families and a compromise will have the court's seal.

"In a secular country like India gender justice was given the complete go-by". "Support it by rising above politics", he said.

Prasad accused the Congress of stalling the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha for the sake of its "vote bank politics". He said that the government has allocated Rs 3,466 crore for rehabilitation and project management of 198 dams across the country.

Asked if steps will be taken for empowerment of Muslim women, including BJP giving ticket during elections, Prasad said the issue should not be reduced to political empowerment: "We are consciously keeping this bill away from political divide".

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