The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 — popularly known as the triple talaq Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha, was once again struggled to get the consensus among political parties. As a result Union Cabinet has approved certain amendments, including bail provisions for the accused before the trial.
Triple Talaq is a form of Islamic divorce which has been used by Muslims in India, especially adherents of Hanafi Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence. It allows any Muslim man to legally divorce his wife by stating the word talaq (the Arabic word for "divorce") three times in oral, written, or more recently, electronic form.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 is a new bill which declares talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal. It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce. Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce. Besides, the Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.) A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to three years along with a fine. In terms of allowance, a Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be decided by a First Class Magistrate. A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The determination of custody will be made by the Magistrate.
Triple talaq has been supported by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a private body which supervises the application of Muslim personal law. It propagates that the State does not have the right to intervene in religious matters. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) defends the practice and has cited a report prepared by Muslim Mahila Research Kendra in co-ordination with Shariah Committee for Women, AIMPLB has claimed that Muslims have a lower rate of divorce compared to other religious communities. Besides, many Islamic religious experts believe that there are great possibilities’ for misuse of the provisions by women and the resulting imbalance of power in Muslim Marriages. For example, when a police officer receives a complaint, without waiting for the magistrate’s order or without getting prior permission from the magistrate, the officer can initiate the investigation process and put the man behind bars. This has raised the fear of Muslim men becoming soft targets because they can be thrown in jail for three years based on anyone’s complaint.
Union Cabinet has approved three amendments for the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which was enacted after the Supreme Court struck down the provision for instant triple talaq. One amendment relates to who can file a complaint against a man exercising the talaq-e-biddat (instant triple talaq). An FIR against the husband will only become cognisable when it is filed by the victim or anyone having blood relation or relation by marriage. While the instant triple talaq will continue to be a non-bailable offence, another amendment allows a magistrate to grant bail after hearing the wife. The third change makes it a compoundable offence. If the wife and the husband agree to settle their differences, the magistrate can compound the offence on appropriate terms and conditions. In order to make the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill a law, the government has introduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha fears that the Opposition may force amendments to it given their superior numbers in the Upper House. The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has diluted the provisions of the bill.
Triple Talaq is often known for its controversy through the world and it is noted that the custom is banned in the Muslim-majority countries of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are many instances where Muslim clerics flout the Supreme Court ban on triple talaq by using the term “talaq-e-bain” to divorce the wife unilaterally. So, in such cases, Triple Talaq in some form or other name will continue to happen even after this bill because such laws by their nature are difficult to enforce. Any form of divorce will continue to exist with some other name till the Muslim clergy does not change in its nature.