New Delhi: Hours after a heated debate on the Triple Talaq Bill, the Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Muslim Women Bill that criminalises the practice of instant Triple Talaq amid a walkout by the Congress and BJP ally AIADMK. Opposition parties attacked the Government saying the measure was aimed at political gains in view of the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The bill was passed with 245 in favour and 11 against in a division after the rejection of all Opposition amendments after the government turned down demands for referring the bill to a joint select committee for detailed consideration.

Day-long debate in the Lower House of Parliament

Strongly defending the bill after a four-hour discussion that broke the impasse in the House over the Rafale deal and other issues, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the bill should not be looked at from the prism of politics as it was meant to ensure gender justice and will have a deterrent effect.

Opposition members, especially the women MPs belonging to the Congress, NCP and other parties, said that the Government had brought the bill with political motives and there was no need to criminalise divorce which is a civil wrong and a social issue.

Before leading a walkout of his party ahead of the voting, leader of the Congress group Mallikarjun Kharge said most of the parties _ including AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Left parties _ had demanded that the bill be sent to a joint select committee and the Government should accept it.

“It is a divisive bill, against the Constitution and violates Muslim personal laws and the right to equality,” he said.

AIADMK whose leader P. Venugopal said his party would also walk out of the House since the Government has rejected its demand for a joint select committee. The AIADMK, which has been supporting the Government and may even tie up with the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, attacked the bill calling it “unconstitutional”, against “natural justice” and one of the most “barbaric” laws to have ever been introduced against the Muslim community.

CPI-M member Mohammed Salim said, “The question is if you want to give justice to Muslim women… You are naming this bill as protection of rights of Muslim women, but there would be no protection of the rights of Muslim women because Muslim women are part of the Muslim community.”

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Prasad said the main objection of Opposition was that the bill sought to criminalise triple talaq and noted that the same House had passed laws with tough provisions to prevent the incidence of rape.

Replying to the debate, Prasad said penal provisions of laws such as the dowry prohibition Act and domestic violence Act were applicable to all citizens and no one had any objection.

“Why is this objection only for triple talaq. Behind it is the political motive of vote bank,” he said, adding that the bill had not been brought to treat any community as a vote bank.

He said that 22 Muslim countries had banned triple talaq or codified it but there was an objection to this being done in a secular country like India.

The Minister said the Congress had supported the bill when it was passed in the Lok Sabha in 2017 but was now raising objections.

Referring to a media report, he said Pakistan was also considering to criminalise triple talaq. “The whole world is looking at India,” he said.

Prasad said the person against whom a complaint was made would get jail term only after a trial and there was the provision of settlement in which the magistrate would record statements.

“Deterrence is always important. If you commit a crime, you will go to the jail,” he said.  Targeting the Congress, he said its Government had brought legislation to negate the Shah Bano judgement.

Prasad cited the Supreme Court judgement and rejected the Opposition’s contention that there was no need for the bill in view of the verdict.

BJP’s ally Shiv Sena, which vociferously supported the bill, utilised the debate to criticise the Government for not being equally pro-active on the issue of Ram temple in Ayodhya. Party member Arvind Sawant said, “If there can be a law for triple talaq, why not bring a bill for Ram temple?”

The Government fielded ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Smriti Irani, both members of Rajya Sabha, during the debate in which they attacked the Congress.

Naqvi likened the practice of triple talaq with long abolished “Sati Pratha”, saying the practice of divorce among Indian Muslims was not related to Islam but was a social evil.

Muslim bodies divided over triple talaq bill

The passage of the triple talaq bill drew mixed reactions from Muslim bodies, with some terming it “very dangerous”, while others welcoming it.  SQR Ilayas, a member of the working committee of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said there was no need for this bill and it has been brought keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. “It is a very dangerous bill that will make a civil issue a criminal offence. Who will take care of the wives and children once the husband goes to jail?” he said.

He also said that instead of gender justice, the bill would prove to be a “punishment” for men and women from the community. “Four crore women signed a petition saying they do not want the bill then who are these Muslim women who want it?” he asked. AIMPLB executive member Asma Zehra said the move to pass the triple talaq bill was “unconstitutional” and was an infringement of the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Passing triple talaq bill ‘political move’ to polarise country before LS polls: Women activists

Several women activists criticised the passage of the triple talaq bill, saying it was a “political move” aimed at polarising the country before the Lok Sabha polls. All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) Secretary Kavita Krishnan asked how the law could be different for different communities.

About the bill

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, replaces an ordinance issued in September after the government failed to get the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year. A similar bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in December last year but could not clear the Rajya Sabha where the Opposition managed to stall it.

The present bill contains safeguards brought in by the Government which make it clear that only the affected woman or her blood relative could file a complaint with police against the husband instead of anyone lodging a complaint as provided in the previous version of the bill.

The improved legislation also provides for easier bail conditions and makes the offence compoundable by a magistrate after hearing the wife. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha where the Government may still find it difficult to push it through.

Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. In view of the opposition by some parties in the Upper House, the Government had then cleared some amendments, including the introduction of a provision of bail, to make it more acceptable.

The proposed law would be applicable in the entire country, except in Jammu and Kashmir.