On Tuesday morning, the Parliament approved the Triple Talaq Bill (Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill) that makes the Muslim practice of instant divorce a criminal offence. The bill was passed by the Upper house, beating off the opposition challenge by 99-84 votes. While the Opposition parties argued that the Triple Talaq Bill is redundant and the government is pushing for it only to use it as a tool to harass Muslim men, the ruling party has stated that it is a tool to provide equality and protection for muslim women in marriage.
The Triple Talaq Bill makes the practice of instant talaq a criminal offence and even provides jail term for the offence. The reason why it is being considered unnecessary by many is because a 2017 Supreme Court verdict already declared Triple Talaq, also known as talaq-e-biddat, unconstitutional. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi tweeted saying this is a historic win for the nation, "An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history! Parliament abolishes triple talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society. India rejoices today!"
An MP from the opposition party, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted saying, “This law is against Muslim women and marginalises them even more. The law forces a woman to stay in a marriage imprisoned with a man who'd verbally & emotionally abused her. It puts the burden of proof on Muslim women and forces her into impoverishment.”
Another question that has arisen post the declaration of this bill is how it coincides with the secularity of the country and the interference of governance. The uniform civil code has been an ongoing point of debate in the nation since 1985 and talks about replacing personal laws of communities in India based on scriptures with a common set of rules, which will govern all the citizens. So far, Goa is the only state in India, which has a uniform civil code regardless of caste, gender and religion, and common family law. But a ruling like the triple talaq may pave the way for this through the country.
Talaq-e-biddat refers to the pronouncement of talaq three times by a Muslim man in one sitting to his wife resulting in an instant and irrevocable divorce. Now, the Triple Talaq Bill makes a declaration of talaq-e-biddat in spoken, written or through SMS or WhatsApp or any other electronic chat illegal.
The bill gives a police officer the power to arrest the offender without requiring a warrant.
The jail term of up to three years is valid under the Triple Talaq Bill. And though the accused under the Triple Talaq Bill is entitled to bail, which can be granted by a magistrate, the bail can be granted only after the magistrate has heard the aggrieved woman.
Reconciliation between the parties is possible without going through nikah halala if both parties agree to stop the legal proceedings and settle the matter. Nikah halala refers to age-old practice under which a divorced Muslim woman has to marry another man and consummate the marriage, and get a divorce to be eligible to remarry her former husband.
A woman who has been divorced through the practice of Triple Talaq is entitled to demand maintenance for her and her dependent children under the bill. The magistrate has the power to determine the amount of subsistence allowance that will be given to the woman.
Under the Triple Talaq Bill, the divorced Muslim woman is entitled to seek custody of minor children, this would also be determined by a magistrate.
The custom of Triple Talaq is already banned in the Muslim-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Brunei, Philipines, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Kuwait, Morocco and Pakistan. Egypt was the first country to ban the practice in 1929 and India’s neighbouring country, Pakistan abolished the practice in 1961. While 23 other countries have banned Triple Talaq and abolished it, we haven’t found any evidence of them criminalising the practice.