Triple talaq: Government plans to make practice a punishable offence, to table bill in Parliament winter session
Three months after the Supreme Court “set aside” instant triple talaq, the government plans to table a bill in the winter session of Parliament that will make the centuries-old practice a criminal offence.
“The government is contemplating making talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence. Very serious consideration is being given by the government,” a senior government official said Tuesday. A committee of ministers, comprising Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, has been constituted to finetune the legislation, the official said.
On August 22, three of five judges on a Constitution Bench – Justices Rohinton F Nariman, Uday U Lalit and Kurian Joseph – called the practice un-Islamic and “arbitrary” and disagreed with the view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice. But the minority ruling of then Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, while underlining the primacy of Muslim personal law, said the practice enjoyed constitutional protection and was beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny. They were of the view that Parliament should consider an “appropriate” law to deal with the issue of talaq-e-biddat.
Sources said recurrent reports of the practice continuing in Muslim society despite the Supreme Court judgment spurred the decision to bring in a law with punitive measures. After the verdict, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said the practice would continue regardless of the legal position. “If you want to punish the person for it, you can do so but the divorce will be recognised,” Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani had told reporters.
A source in the government said: “There have been reports of a number of divorces by way of talaq-e-biddat happening even after the Supreme Court verdict. This could be because of lack of knowledge among Muslim husbands of the the apex court decision. It could also be because of lack of deterrent punishment for the act of talaq-e-biddat.” “In spite of advisories to members of the community against this archaic practice, there seems to be no decline in the practice of divorce via talaq-e-biddat. In a recent incident of talaq-e-biddat, it has been reported that an AMU professor divorced his wife through WhatsApp and SMS and that the wife approached the police,” the source said.
The government suspects there may be many such unreported instances of instant triple talaq elsewhere in the country. Once a law is in place, the Muslim clergy will have no role in cases of talaq-e-biddat and women can directly approach the police for redressal. As of now, police are helpless because no action can be taken against the husband in the absence of punitive provisions in law.
The move to make it punishable is also in keeping with the position of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which has said that it was the remit of the legislature to make laws on religious matters such as triple talaq. “The government’s endeavour to bring a suitable legislation/amending existing penal provisions will be a step forward to this end. It is expected to go a long way in deterring Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives and empowering Muslim women who find themselves helpless against the practice of talaq-e-biddat,” the source said.