TRIPLE TALAQ BILL : Draft law is more focused on victimizing Muslim women rather than empowering them.
- PRAKRITI DADSENA
STUDENT, AMITY LAW SCHOOL, NOIDA.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court passed an apparently striking judgment in the Shayara Bano v Union of India on the act of moment triple talaq, expressing that it was "obviously subjective" and "against the essential fundamentals of Islam". The court split 3:2 – the minority conclusion, including past Chief Justice J.S Khehar, had requested that the Center to legislate on the matter of talaq-e-biddat, and the majority opinion stated that such practice is unlawful and illegal. The Center, in an offer to remain consistent with the law, presented the triple talaq charge and passed it in the Lok Sabha.
The bill is titled 'The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017' and its objective is "to protect the rights of married Muslim women and to prohibit divorce by pronouncing talaq by their husbands". Under the bill, the revelation of talaq "by a person upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, void and illegal." The act of triple talaq is criminalized under this bill; a cognizable and non-bailable offense under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, wherein the punishment for articulating talaq upon one's wife is imprisonment that may extend to three years and fine. Chapter III of the bill highlights provisions on the ‘Protection of Rights of Married Muslim Women’. It provides for a ‘subsistence allowance’, determined by a magistrate, for her and any dependent children . A Muslim woman who has been subjected to triple talaq is additionally qualified for authority of her minor children.
The bill is followed by a 'Statement of Objects and Reasons'– a simple justification about the variables that prodded the draft enactment. It talks about the liberation of Indian Muslim women from the “practice of capricious and whimsical method of divorce, by some Muslim men, leaving no room for reconciliation.” The statement additionally asserts that there was a need for state action in order to give effect to the order of apex court and to review the grievances of victims of illegal divorce . According to the statement, it would meet the objectives of gender justice and equality of married Muslim women.
Moreover, the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ within the bill proposes to provide justice to the “helpless married Muslim woman” and save her from the throes of instant triple talaq – it makes victims out of Muslim women living in India. The announcement horribly defrauds Muslim women living in India – “In order to prevent helpless married women from being harassed due to talaq-e-biddat, suitable enactment is important to give some help to them. The bill proposes to announce proclamation of talaq-e-biddat by Muslim husbands void and illegal in view of the Supreme Court verdict. Further, the illegal act of pronouncing talaq-e-biddat shall be a punishable offence. This is essential to prevent this form of divorce, wherein the wife does not have any say in severing the marital relationship. It is also proposed to provide for matters such as subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily supporting needs of the wife, in the event of husband pronouncing talaq-e-biddat, and, also of the dependent children. The wife would also be entitled to custody of minor children.”
Further Clause 7 of the Bill states that the offence of pronouncing triple talaq is a cognizable and non-bailable offence. A non-cognizable offence is an offence whereby the police cannot arrest a person without a warrant. Whereas, in cognizable offences, for serious crimes, the police can take cognizance of the offence and arrest the accused immediately. Private wrongs are usually non-cognizable offences, such as bigamy. For a non-cognizable offence, the aggrieved person (the wife in this case), must file a complaint seeking the arrest of the accused, then the magistrate will decide whether an arrest warrant should be issued or not. However, by making the offence of triple talaq a cognizable offence, the police can arrest Muslim men without any form of judicial oversight to determine whether a warrant should be issued, and the police can take a Muslim man into custody even if the wife does not file a complaint.
The triple talaq bill provides no new remedies to Muslim women who are subject to talaq-e-biddat by their husbands. In fact, it seems unnecessary and redundant when the Supreme Court had already invalidated the practice. In my opinion, the bill only serves one purpose – it allows elitist Hindu men to save the helpless married Muslim women from Muslim men.