Introducing the triple talaq Bill in Lok Sabha on Thursday, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Opposition should not “weigh the Bill on scales of politics” and rejected the charge that it is directed at a particular community.
The Bill, he said, is aimed at “naari nyaay, naari garima, aur naari sammaan (justice for women, dignity of women, and respect for women)”.
On objections raised by the Opposition, Prasad mentioned other laws passed by Parliament — death penalty for those who rape minors, criminal penalties for dowry, among others — and asked, “yeh apatti sirf triple talaq par hi kyun (why this objection only for triple talaq)?”
He maintained that the Bill is not meant to target any community, neither is it “for vote banks”. Pointing out that more than 20 Islamic countries have banned instant triple talaq, he said it still remains in secular India.
Like a year ago, when the Lok Sabha passed an amended Bill to criminalise instant triple talaq, the Opposition countered the Bill on several counts on Thursday, too. Members argued that it is a civil wrong that should not be criminalised; that the Supreme Court has already banned the practice so a law was not required; that a husband, if jailed, would not be able to pay for the victim’s (divorced wife’s) maintenance; and specific targeting of Muslim men, as no such laws exist in Hindu or Christian laws.
Speaking first, Congress Leader of House Mallikarjun Kharge said it is “very important to go into details” of the Bill, as, he said, it is against several provisions of the Constitution — Articles 14 and 15, among others. “That is why it is a Constitutional matter” and “interferes with a religion,” he said, asking for the Bill to be referred to a joint select committee of Parliament.
The TMC, AIMIM, NCP, National Conference, AIADMK and the Left parties also demanded referring the Bill to a select committee. Leading the front for Congress, Sushmita Dev said, “This law is not about empowering Muslim women, it is about penalising a Muslim man.” She said the Supreme Court, while banning it, did not mention that instant triple talaq “has to be criminalised”.
Talking about the Shariat law, AIADMK’s Anwhar Raajhaa asked, “Why is the husband being punished with such severity?” He also called it unconstitutional and “against human rights and principles of natural justice”. Trinamool member Supid Bandopadhyay said there is “no doubt that instant talaq is viewed as sinful (and) improper by a large section of the Muslim community itself”, but “we should not forget to protect the interests of women”, and asked for 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha.
BJD’s Rabindra Kumar Jena also sought reservation for women in Parliament, as did NCP’s Supriya Sule. The Bill, Jena said, is “targeted at a particular religion”, which puts a “question mark” on its “very constitutionality”. He said the Bill “attempts at creating a class-specific legislation on grounds of religion instead of focusing on the larger issues of mistreatment and dissertation of wife and dependents, which affect all communities”.
Calling the Bill arbitrary, A P Jithender Reddy of TRS said, “It seems that under the pretext of protecting women’s rights, the government is breaching the trust established with the minority community.” Sule said most women affected by such cases are at the bottom of the pyramid. She said a woman stays even in a bad marriage only because of her family and her commitment to her children. “By putting him (husband) in jail, which marriage is going to be saved.”