New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making triple talaq a punishable offence, including a jail term of up to three years and a fine. Announcing the decision after the cabinet meeting, union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media the practice of triple talaq has continued despite the Supreme Court striking it down. This, the minister stressed, has made the ordinance a “compelling necessity and an overpowering urgency”.
The Bill, brought by the Narendra Modi government aiming to criminalise instant divorce or talaq-e-biddat by men by uttering “talaq” thrice in quick succession, is currently stalled in the parliament.
“I have said this before, the issue of triple talaq has nothing to do with faith, mode of worship or religion. It is a pure issue of gender justice, gender dignity and gender equality,” said the law minister.
The ordinance comes in the wake of the government failing to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in the Rajya Sabha during the recent monsoon session. Passed by the Lok Sabha in the last Winter session of the parliament, the Bill got stuck in the Rajya Sabha after facing protests from opposition parties on the criminal provisions in the draft law. Citing the lack of ‘consensus’ in the House, Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, on the last day of the Monsoon session, deferred the Bill till the Winter Session .
Under the ordinance, the crime of triple talaq will be taken into cognisance only when the woman herself or her blood relative files a complaint; the case may be dropped if the couple reaches a compromise or if the wife approaches the magistrate, who after listening to the wife’s complaint, can grant bail to the accused on reasonable grounds.
Describing the practice of triple talaq as “barbaric and inhuman,” Prasad said nearly 22 countries have regulated triple talaq. However, gender justice was given a complete go-by in a secular country like India because of blatant vote bank politics.
Blaming the Congress for the delay in passing the Bill, Ravi Shankar said he had approached the opposition party several times. But the Congress has so far failed to respond. “I will again appeal to Sonia ji that this ordinance has been brought in the interest of the country to bring gender justice. I appeal to you to rise above vote bank politics and help pass it in the interest of justice for women,” he told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
The Union minister also appealed to Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to help in the passage of the bill pending in Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks numbers.
Last August, the Supreme Court had eclared triple talaq illegal and unconstitutional. The top court had, in a landmark 3-2 verdict, called triple talaq “arbitrary” and disagreed with it being part of religious practice.
The cabinet had in August this year approved inclusion of a provision to allow the magistrate to grant bail to men accused of giving instant triple talaq to their wives.
(With PTI inputs)