Rivals whet knife to slice Centre’s triple talaq Bill

Govt likely to introduce legislation criminalising instant triple talaq in Lok Sabha on Thursday; Opposition sniffs ploy for electoral gain
Rivals whet knife to slice Centre’s triple talaq Bill

NEW DELHI: The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, is expected to generate much heat when Parliament’s winter session resumes after the Christmas break on Wednesday.

With the Bill likely to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the Opposition is preparing to target the government for rushing a sensitive legislation that criminalises triple talaq, imposes a prison term of up to three years on husbands who violate the law and slaps a fine on them.

The objective of the Bill, which has been circulated among MPs, is to ensure the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and promote their fundamental rights to non-discrimination and empowerment.

But the Opposition has refused to buy this. While the Congress and the Left parties say the issue is sensitive and needs wider public consultation, the Samajwadi Party, which has a strong voter base among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, feels the BJP is pushing the legislation for electoral gain.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which banks heavily on Muslim votes in Bihar, has accused the BJP of playing “dog-whistle politics” in the garb of gender justice. The Biju Janata Dal has asked for clarity on the three-year jail term provision.The BJP is, however, confident that the Bill will be passed in the Lok Sabha by a voice vote. “The BJP national executive in Bhubaneshwar had decided that the government must intervene to address the plight of Muslim women and ensure they are not exploited. The Bill will be instrumental in unleashing reforms in the minority community,” said a BJP leader.

Senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed told Express: “The government is rushing the Bill that deals with a very sensitive issue. It should first discuss the matter with all parties and community leaders to evolve a consensus.”

CPI(M) Lok Sabha MP Mohammed Salim said the Bill was a social piece of legislation with wide implications and should be referred to a standing committee so that there is wider consultation with stakeholders, including women.

“There has been no consultation process. The Supreme Court has already given a verdict and when it is already illegal, why is the government criminalising it? Moreover, triple talaq is not a rampant problem that has superseded issues like poverty, women trafficking and illiteracy. It’s just a core political game by the BJP to project the entire opposition is against it.”

CPI leader D Raja said: “In India, we have a system of standing committees scrutinising important legislations. After that, the legislation comes back to the Lok Sabha. There is a second scrutiny if needed by a Rajya Sabha standing committee, which can give a different view. It’s just a political gimmick done in a hurry with some prejudiced view,” said Raja.

RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said: “The SC order banning instant triple talaq had sent the right message to the community. But the BJP is trying to play dog-whistle politics that exposes its shallow concern for Muslims.”Samajwadi Party member Javed Ali Khan said: “More than protecting the interests of Muslim women, the Bill aims to make Hindu fanatics happy.”

Provisions of the bill

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 criminalises instant triple talaq, making it a cognizable offence
Proposes that the practice will be a non-bailable offence
Husbands who violate the provisions will get a jail term of three years and fine
Provides for ‘subsistence allowance’ to a woman who has been given instant triple talaq, and grants her the custody of minor children

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The New Indian Express