Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while moving the bill, said 300 cases were reported in the present year.
The bill to ban triple talaq — or talaq-e-bidat, where the triple pronunciation of a husband’s will to divorce is in one sitting, without opportunity given to the couple for reconciliation — was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday without ado, with serious opposition coming only from the so-called Muslim parties, whose overall stance has been to uphold the old order which favours a male-dominated society where women find themselves seriously disadvantaged in spite of the Quran giving them equal status with men.
The ruling BJP and its allies have an overwhelming majority in the Lower House. But that’s not so in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress and regional parties have the upper hand. These parties didn’t oppose the bill in the Lok Sabha. If they follow the same stance, the proposed legislation should clear the Upper House too. However, there’s a catch. The Congress has demanded that the bill be sent to a standing committee. A more nuanced discussion may then become possible.
This is needed even if it’s kept in mind that in August the Supreme Court had ruled that triple talaq was illegal, and asked Parliament to frame a law in this regard.
Triple talaq is undoubtedly a deeply obnoxious practice that has been banned in several Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are a part of the same broad cultural configuration as India. However, lawmaking should be predicated on the extent of a problem. Triple talaq appears not to pass that test.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while moving the bill, said 300 cases were reported in the present year. That doesn’t appear a compelling figure in a population of billions. To deal with a problem of this magnitude, it has been suggested that proscribing talaq-e-bidat in the traditional Muslim nikahnama (the pre-nuptial contract, as a Muslim wedding is a civil agreement) may have sufficed, and it wasn’t at all necessary to legislate.
The bill provides for a jail term of up to three years to the husband if proven guilty of attempting triple talaq. This makes the perpetrator guilty of a major crime. The suitability of this is debatable. There are also practical problems. How can an average husband offer financial support to the wife, as is he is supposed to do under the proposed law, if he is in jail? There is another issue. After doing his jail term, will such a husband be able to lead a normal family life with a wife whose reporting sent him to jail?
There may be other practical considerations if preserving a functional marriage is to be attempted. However, a beginning can be made by proscribing talaq-e-bidat at the nikahnama stage, and the bill can be re-thought in this light.