So the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) should be credited for having successfully stalled the ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ from becoming a law at least for the time being with the active support of the same elements who had earlier in 1986 overturned the judgement of the Supreme Court for the grant of just a petty sum of alimony Rs 179.20 per month by bringing in legislation to that effect with an overwhelming majority under the pressure and appeasement of the influential and orthodox Muslims clerics and leaders.
When the Supreme Court Constitutional Bench on 22 August 2017 held the triple talaq null and void on the grounds of being violative of the fundamental rights as contained in the Article 14 of the Constitution which provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, a lot of euphoria was generated among the progressive people of India and also a hope among the Muslim women that the centuries old discrimination has finally come to an end. Though it followed a raising debate in media and dissenting voices from AIMPLB members, clergy and some Muslim politicians but it was hoped that such voices of opposition will gradually subside and good sense will prevail over wisdom and ruling of the Apex Court in the case.
However, in just four months after the Supreme Court verdict, more than one hundred cases of the triple talaq were reported making a mockery of the Constitution and Supreme Court of India. And it is not just that cases were reported only from the backward and unprivileged class but the so called educated and privileged class too had its own share. For instance, a bizarre case of a high profile professor of the Aligarh Muslim University was reported to have given triple talaq to his wife on the social media Whatsapp and then through a text message. Other than these perpetual offenders, the prominent clerics and members of AIMPLB publicly asserted that notwithstanding the Supreme Court verdict, the practice of triple talaq will continue hitherto fore. This necessitated for the Government to enact a law bringing in an element of criminality as deterrent to save honour and welfare of Muslim women.
The way the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 received applaud and was passed in the Lok Sabha with an overwhelming majority, it raised hope, rather a belief, about the good intentions and maturity of the political parties that they are capable of taking right decisions jointly in the interest of the nation and society despite their personal ideological differences and rivalries. But they took no time to show their true colours within days by creating ruckus and stalling the bill in the Rajya Sabha to the cheers of the AIMPLB and other orthodox elements who were constantly flexing their muscles for rallying support from the opposition parties while simultaneously threatening to move the Apex Court if the law makers fail to listen their demand. Needless to mention it was the U-turn of the grand old party that really betrayed the trust of the Muslim women yet again.
Now the main objection has been raised by the opposition that the marital affairs are of civil nature and the proposed bill seeks to criminalise it. The other objection is if the husband is sentenced a jail term, who will pay for the maintenance of the wife. The leaders of the grand old party have gone even to the extent of suggesting that the government should take this responsibility if they are to support legislation. It is quite amusing to note that many of these politicians were also a party to the 1986 legislation that was brought to appease the sentiments of the personal law board then denying a petty amount of alimony in Shah Bano case beyond iddat i.e the period of three months after divorce.
In this context, it may be relevant to mention that the Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) specifically deals with the provision and procedure of maintenance particularly in cases where a wife has no means to maintain herself but through the 1986 legislation for the appeasement of the personal law board, Muslim women were kept away from any future relief under this section. So more appropriately, they are the ones i.e. the political party and personal law board who should reply and resolve this issue if they have problem with the bill in its current form. The personal law board members in the Supreme Court and publicly too in the recent past had promised that they will educate and campaign against this unjust and sinful practice against the women but no change in practice or perception are visible on ground.
The parties opposing the bill and AIMPLB have succeeded in their manoeuvres and motives at the moment but at best this could be defined as their temporary triumph. The Muslim women have now awakened and ready to fight against this abhorrable practice and the gender discrimination. It is only a matter of time but they are bound to compel and extract justice in the near future from the very parties and institutions which are currently working against their interests.