Government Considers Making Triple Talaq a Punishable Offence

Sources claim that a Bill to end the practice will be introduced in the winter session of the parliament.

New Delhi: Three months after the Supreme Court ruled set aside instant triple talaq, the central government is contemplating steps towards making the practice a criminal offence. While delivering the ruling in August, the Supreme Court had asked why when Islamic countries have abolished the centuries-old-practice, India could not do so.

According to Indian Express, a Bill making triple talaq a criminal offence is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the parliament.

Women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes told The Wire that the government’s plans to criminalise the practice had left her “shocked.”

“Women want civil remedies to be available to them, they want not to be thrown out and not to be deserted,” she said. “What good will throwing men in jail do?”

Agnes further questioned the government’s intentions behind a legislation limited to the minority Muslim women at a time when deserted Hindu women all around the country are living in deplorable conditions. According to Census 2011 data, the number of these women far exceeds the number of Muslim divorcees and deserted women.

On August 22, a five-judge bench of the apex court had set aside triple talaq by a 3-2 majority with Justices Rohinton F. Nariman, Uday U. Lalit and Kurian Joseph disagreeing with the commonly-held view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice. Justice Joseph argued that triple talaq in fact went  against the tenets of the Quran and violated Sharia law.

During the hearing for the case, several lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, attacked the practice on various constitutional grounds, including the right to equality, describing it as “abhorrent”.

The minority ruling by then Chief Justice of India J. S. Khehar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer backed the practice saying that triple talaq was part of Muslim personal law, enjoyed constitutional protection and was beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny. During the ruling, the judges directed the Centre to frame a law to deal with triple talaq.

A senior government functionary told Indian Express on Tuesday (November 22) that the Centre was “contemplating making talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence.”

Adding that “very serious consideration” was being given by the government, the official said that a committee comprising home minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance minister Arun Jaitley, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as well as minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been constituted to look into fine tuning the legislation.

In the August ruling, the apex court placed an injunction on Muslims from practicing triple talaq for six months. However, the practice has continued, pushing the government to consider bringing in a law. According to sources, a lack of awareness about the Supreme Court’s ruling coupled with the lack of “deterrent punishment for the act of talaq-e-biddat” could be the reasons behind continued practice of triple talaq.

Lawyer Dushyant, who along with eight others had in September submitted a draft ‘Progressive Uniform Civil Code’ to the Law Commission, told Indian Express that the government’s step even though welcome, was “insufficient.”

“On the one hand is this government’s strange obsession with saving Muslim women. On the other is the complete indifference to issues which affect women across religions, gender and sexual orientation such as marital rape, rights of queer people to get married and raise children etc,” he said.