Govt sees ‘compelling necessity’ as it continued despite SC ban last year; 3-yr jail for offenders.
New Delhi: Claiming that incidents of “talaq-e-biddat”, or instant triple talaq, have continued unabated despite the Supreme Court having struck it down, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance to ban the practice, with law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying there was a “compelling necessity” to do so.
Under the proposed ordinance, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
President Ram Nath Kovind signed the ordinance late on Wednesday night, a law ministry official said.
The Opposition Congress, meanwhile, accused the Narendra Modi government of treating the issue of instant triple talaq “more as a political football than a matter of justice for Muslim women”. BJP president Amit Shah, on the other hand, praised the government’s decision and described it as “historic”.
Seeking to allay fears that the proposed law could be misused, the government has included certain safeguards in it such as adding a provision of bail for the accused before trial. These amendments were cleared by the Union Cabinet on August 29.
“There was an overpowering urgency and a compelling necessity to bring the ordinance as the practice continued unabated despite the Supreme Court order last year,” Mr Prasad told a press conference after the Cabinet meeting.
Citing details of instant triple talaq cases, the minister said till now 430 incidents of triple talaq have come to the government’s notice through the media. Of these, he said, 229 were reported before the Supreme Court order, while another 201 came to light after it. These cases were reported between January 2017 and September 13, 2018, he said.
The law minister used the opportunity to attack the Congress, saying it was not supporting the bill pending in the Rajya Sabha due to “votebank pressures”. He said: “It is my serious charge that
Sonia Gandhiji has maintained silence on the issue. She is silent... It has nothing to do with politics but gender justice and dignity,” he said.
He urged UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BSP supremo Mayawati and Trinamul Congress’ Mamata Banerjee to support the bill in the next session of Parliament for the sake of “gender justice, gender equality and gender dignity”.
While the proposed law makes it a “non-bailable” offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. In a non-bailable offence, bail cannot be granted by the police at the police station itself.
Mr Prasad said a provision has been added to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”. Sources later said the magistrate would ensure that bail is granted only after the husband agrees to grant compensation to the wife as provided for in the bill.
The quantum of compensation will be decided by the magistrate, as per the bill.
The police would lodge an FIR only if approached by the victim (wife), her blood relatives or people who become her relatives by virtue of her marriage. Neighbours and others cannot lodge a complaint under the proposed law.
The instant triple talaq offence will be “compoundable|. A magistrate can now use his powers to settle the dispute between a husband and a wife. This will happen only if the wife approaches the court. Under a compoundable offence, both parties have the right to withdraw the case.
The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or “talaq-e-biddat”, and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.
A woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate, who will take a final call on the issue.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government had not acceded to the Congress’ request for making a provision to attach the property of those not providing compensation to affected women and children after giving them divorce. He said instant triple talaq was “an illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman practice” that was quashed by the Supreme Court.
“For us, triple talaq has always been a human issue related to women’s rights and extending justice to them,” he said, adding that this was the reason why Congress leaders and lawyers like Salman Khurshid and Manish Tiwari had represented the affected women before the Supreme Court in the case. However, the Narendra Modi government was treating the issue more as a political football than a matter of justice to Muslim women,” he alleged.
Terming as historic the ordinance making the practice of triple talaq a punishable offence, BJP president Amit Shah said it was also a matter of introspection and guilt for those political parties which forced Muslim women to suffer from it due to their votebank politics.