Union cabinet clears bill criminalising triple talaq


A bill seeking to criminalise instant triple talaq among Muslims and providing for a three-year jail term was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday, which the government said was aimed at protecting the dignity and security of women in the community.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 got the cabinet nod at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had spoken about the issue even during the campaign of the just-ended Gujarat Assembly elections.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to give details of the Bill at a media briefing on the ground that Parliament was in session. He merely said many state governments, to whom the draft of the bill was sent, had supported the Bill.

According to the draft Bill sent out to states earlier this month, it was proposed that triple talaq be made a cognisable and non-bailable offence that would attract a jail term of three years. The draft law was prepared in the backdrop of the August 22 verdict of the Supreme Court striking down the practice of "instant" triple talaq as illegal. However, it is understood that the Bill provides for a three-year imprisonment and fine to a Muslim man if he resorts to the practice of instant divorce, which a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had held as "unconstitutional and arbitrary". The court had also held that triple talaq was not integral to Islam.

The Bill, while making instant divorce a cognisable and non-bailable offence, also seeks to give the affected women right to seek maintenance. It is expected to be introduced during the Winter Session of Parliament that commenced on Friday.

Declining to go into the details of the measure, Prasad said it was designed to shield the helpless victims of triple talaq and to give them dignity and security.

"Cabinet has taken historic decisions today which will have a long term impact in the growth of the country... because Parliament session is on, I cannot give details of the Bill," he said.

"We approved The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which is to protect victims of Triple Talaq," he added.

The Cabinet clearance was criticised by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board as a direct attack on the religious freedom of the Muslim community, while women activists sought collective support of political parties in converting the Bill into law.

"The community is indulging in argument but that doesn't mean we will give up our constitutional and legal entitlement. We are all citizens in a democracy and living in the 21st century. We are entitled, educated and empowered, and we want justice as per the law of the land...So, this kind of Personal Law Board argument for any kind of reform is not accepted," the activist said.

According to Soman, they have written letters to Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury for their collective support in converting the triple talaq Bill into when it is tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament for discussion.

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