The government had tabled the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, last week in the lower House. Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Congress in the House, suggested that the bill be taken up for discussion on 27 December.
“I request you to take the bill on 27 December. We are all going to participate. Our party and other political parties are ready to discuss (the bill),” Kharge said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar sought an assurance from the opposition that it would allow discussion on the bill without disruption on that day.
In August 2017, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court declared that the practice was “unconstitutional” by a 3:2 majority.
When was the fresh bill introduced?
The fresh bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 17 December to replace an ordinance issued in September.
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.
The fresh bill will supersede an earlier bill passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The earlier bill was approved by the lower house. However, amid opposition by some parties in the Rajya Sabha, the government had then cleared some amendments, including introduction of a provision of bail, to make it more acceptable.
But as the bill continued to face resistance in the Rajya Sabha, the government issued an ordinance in September, incorporating amendments.
An ordinance is valid for six months. But from the day a session begins, it has to be replaced by a bill which should be passed by Parliament within 42 days (six weeks), otherwise it lapses.
The government can re-promulgate the ordinance if the bill fails to get through Parliament.
What is the centre’s stand?
Introducing the bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that despite the Supreme Court striking down the practice of talaq-e-biddat (instant triple talaq), terming it unconstitutional, divorces in this form were still taking place.
Citing details of instant triple talaq cases, the government had informed the Lok Sabha that from January 2017 to September 2018, 430 incidents of triple talaq had come to the notice of the government through media reports.
Of these, 229 were reported before the Supreme Court judgement, while another 201 came to notice after it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has issued a whip to its Lok Sabha members to be present in the House on 27 December when the triple talaq bill will be taken up for discussion.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that the centre was committed to make a law on triple talaq despite facing “hurdles” from “hardliners” and opposition parties.
Speaking at the fifth national convention of BJP Mahila Morcha, the Prime Minister said, “We are committed so that Muslim women can get rid of a big life threat. Not just that. In order for Muslim women to go to Haj (pilgrimage), we have removed the clause that men need to accompany them.”
What about the opposition?
The Congress, according to The Hindu, has maintained that as triple talaq has been outlawed by the Supreme Court’s verdict, the legislation has no legal validity.
The party, according to the report, has also said that marriage is a civil contract and any breach of it can’t be deemed criminal.
Congress’ Shashi Tharoor also opposed the introduction of the new bill, saying divorce cannot be made a penal offence and its provisions were against the basic principles of the Constitution.
When the Lok Sabha debated the bill last year, the AIADMK had also opposed to the legislation. According to Deccan Chronicle, the AIADMK wanted the Centre to remove the provision of three-year jail term for offending husbands.
How have activists reacted?
Some women activists, according to PTI, had condemned the government’s decision to make instant triple talaq a penal offence, calling it a “politicised move” that did not take into consideration the complications it could pose to Muslim women.
Shabnam Hashmi, a women rights activist, said criminalising triple talaq intends to polarise people.
“It was banned by the Supreme Court, criminalising it would polarise people ahead of the general elections,” Hashmi said.
(With PTI inputs)