Triple Talaq Bill: A Sad Nemesis

Dr. Jaipal Singh
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As was feared from the overtures of the national leaders of the grand old party of India, the Triple Talaq Bill on Muslim women faced rough weather in the Upper House of the parliament where combined opposition have an upper hand. The insistence of opposition to refer the Bill to a select committee will have following implications:

1) As such a committee is comprised of the representatives from various political parties, the members are most likely to stick to their party line keeping political interests in view instead of acting above the board in the interest of the Muslim women;
2) The bill will be postponed at least till the next parliament session even before it is taken up again. The history of such parliamentary committees would reveal they have often served to dilute and diffuse the urgency of the matter putting the cause at the backburner and any committee is seldom known to come with any viable and rational recommendations by consensus.
3) As the Parliament is not bound to comply with the recommendations of the committee, the issue would remain uncertain and open even when it is taken up again where political parties will take a line as per their convenience and will.
4) It often so occurs that once the momentum is lost, the issue is also dropped in the list of the numerous other pending legislations awaiting for a more conducive time by the government for years together.

The case in point is if the Congress and any other opposition party has any issues with clause(s) establishing criminality of the triple talaq and quantum of punishment in the Bill and if they are well-intentioned, they could propose suitable amendments with a solution as they deem fit for the test on the floor of the parliament. For instance, possibily there could be issues regarding the culpability of offence in the bill such as keeping it cognizable (as provisioned) or non-cognizable, and so on so forth. The Congress has no dearth of leaders who are also lawyers. They are well known to show their ability and talent in the party interest as and when required, the case of Ram-Janmbhumi dispute in the Supreme Court and striking a deal with Patidars during Gujarat elections on the issue of reservation are recent examples. So it should not be difficult for them to quickly examine the bill and deal with it in the floor trial.

Since the opposition have a majority in the Upper House, they can always have their say and pass the bill with amendments rather than leaving it in a jittery state for long or throwing it in a topsy-turvy by making a chaos in the Upper House for referring it to a select committee. Instead of doing the needful, they are flexing their muscle power to oppose and embarrass the party in power while simultaneously raising a rhetoric that they are actually in favour of the legislation in the interest of Muslim women.

These double standards and double-speaks are not uncommon in the party which has reigned this country for the almost six decades after the independence. In 1986, with an overwhelming majority in the parliament, the same party had overturned the judgement of the Supreme Court through a legislation - The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, under the pressure from the Muslim orthodox religious and political leaders in the much publicised Shah Bano case. Through this legislation, the right of the Muslim woman divorcees to alimony from their husbands was restricted to only for 90 days after the divorce. Ironically, the title of the Bill talked about the Muslim Women’s protection of rights while in effect it took away their right of alimony granted by the Apex court of the country in an individual case leaving the litigant high and dry forever.

The hard and stark reality is that initially the grand old party in the name of secularism actually used the minority community as a vote bank for many years and avoided any progressive legislation or schemes to increase social awareness under the influence of the dominant orthodox elements. Subsequently, other regional parties with socialist and communist ideologies too grasped the idea and have been experimenting with the community for sheer electoral gains. They are aware of the dominant position and influence of the hardliners over the society in the minority community and continue to play the political game of convenience.

The prevailing pandemonium and chaos in the legislative forums and public over the serious issues is not likely to end because the politicians continue to put their vested interests over the national interests. Here the issue is that after continued social discrimination and sufferance for the centuries, the Muslim women had seen a ray of hope after the recent Supreme Court majority judgment banning the controversial Islamic practice that allows men to leave their wives immediately by stating ‘talaq’ (divorce) three times and these hopes are being put in jeopardy by the law makers.

As the hardliners in the minority community continue to prevail and incidents of triple talaq are occurring hitherto fore despite the clear verdict of the Supreme Court, the federal government considered it necessary to bring in legislation with an element of criminality against the erring husband as a deterrence to safeguard the interests of the Muslim women. Now the question is whether the Congress and other opposition parties would for the time being put aside the political differences and interests for a greater cause of women welfare or they will continue to play the dirty game of politics as usual?

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