Rajya Sabha clears Triple Talaq Bill

Rajya Sabha clears Triple Talaq Bill
The bill makes triple talaq a cognizable offence, carrying a jail term of up to three years, and provides allowance to victim women and their dependent children

In a historic move, the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday cleared the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, which makes the practice of instant ‘triple talaq’ a criminal offence.

The Bill proposes to protect the rights of married Muslim women by prohibiting the practice of divorce by pronouncing talaq by their husbands.

It also makes triple talaq a cognizable offence, under which Muslim men can face a jail term of up to three years for giving triple talaq, and provides allowance to victim women and their dependent children.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last week. The Upper House passed the bill today by 99 votes in favour, and 84 against it.

While the non-aligned BJD supported the legislation, JD-U and AIADMK walked out, lowering the majority mark which normally stands at 121. The ruling NDA has 107 members in the 242-member Rajya Sabha.

The NDA was also helped by the absence of some members of SP and BSP as well as those of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and YSR-Congress.

Once granted assent by the President, the bill will replace an ordinance promulgated last on February 21 to the same effect as the bill. Incidentally, 101 cases of triple talaq came to light ever after the government brought the ordinance.

Replying to a four-and-half-hour debate on the Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited jail provisions in the legislation that ban dowry and multiple marriages by Hindu men to justify the three-year jail term for Muslim men practices triple talaq.

The minister also slammed Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who termed the bill as a politically motivated move to destroy Muslim households with domestic fights.

He also said the 1986 Shah Bano case, where the Congress did not stick its neck out to support women rights, as the main reason for the downfall of the party.

“In 1986 you rose to 400 seats, Shah Bano’s case happened in 1986 and you never received a majority in any of 9 Lok Sabha elections after that. I am giving you food for thought,” Prasad said.

The law, he said, was not being brought due to the Supreme Court ruling of 2017 declaring talaq-e-biddat, commonly referred to as instant triple talaq, unconstitutional.

We cannot leave in lurch women who have been divorced by triple talaq via WhatsApp or other such means, Prasad said, adding that when the Muslim world is trying to reform, why can’t a democracy do the same.

Trying to shed anti-Muslim image, he said his party gave the nation a President from the same community.

On opposition charge of targeting Muslims, he said BJP may be getting a little less votes from the community but it considers them very much a part of the country and works on the principle of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’.

Prasad said the bill should not be seen through a political prism as it is a matter of humanity, woman empowerment and gender equality.

“More than 20 Islamic nations have regulated triple talaq,” he said.

Azad said the opposition has been forced to vote against the bill after the government did not accept their demand to send it to a select committee and make triple talaq a civil offence.

The Triple Talaq bill could not make it through the Upper House earlier this year during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, although it was passed by Lok Sabha.

The Bill was again passed by the Lok Sabha last week amid a walkout by several opposition parties including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The opposition parties have argued that in its current form, the proposed law could be misused to harass Muslims and wanted it to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee. However, the house had rejected the motion.

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