Muslim women pray at the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi. (Photographer: Keith Bedford/Bloomberg News) 

Cabinet Clears Bill That Criminalises Instant Triple Talaq

A draft law which seeks to make the practice of instant triple talaq “illegal and void” and provides for a jail term for the husband was today cleared by the Union Cabinet. The nod paves the way for its introduction in Parliament during the winter session which began today.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad confirmed that the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill has been approved but refused to share details as Parliament is in session.

According to the draft law prepared by an inter-ministerial group headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, instant triple talaq will be “illegal and void” and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. The husband could also be fined, the quantum of which would be decided by the magistrate hearing the case. The draft law will be applicable to the entire country except Jammu & Kashmir and will be a non-bailable, cognisable offence.

The bill is being introduced as the practice still continues despite the Supreme Court striking down talaq-e- biddat (instant triple talaq).

The proposed law will only apply to instant triple talaq and will empower the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and her minor children. The woman can also seek custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue. Under the draft law, triple talaq in any form – spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp – will be illegal and void.

“The provision of subsistence allowance and custody has been made to ensure that in case the husband asks the wife to leave the house she should have legal protection,” a government functionary said.

“There have been 177 reported cases of instant talaq before the judgement and 66 after the order this year... Uttar Pradesh tops the list. Hence, the government planned a law,” he explained.

He said the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act were found to be of little help in such cases even as the government and the Prime Minister's Office were receiving complaints from women.

As of now, the draft law is prospective in nature. But if Parliament feels, it can be implemented retrospectively once it is passed and gets the President's nod, he said.

Perhaps women who have been given triple talaq before the proposed law comes into force can also seek custody of minor children and subsistence allowance using its provisions, another official said.

As the law stands today, a victim of instant triple talaq has no option but to approach the police for redressal of her grievance as a Muslim clergy would be of no assistance to her. Even the police are helpless as no action can be taken against the husband in the absence of punitive provisions in the law, the officials quoted above explained.

In August, the Supreme Court struck down the controversial Islamic practice as arbitrary and unconstitutional. But there have been reports of a number of divorces by way of talaq-e-biddat even after the judgement, the functionaries said.

Despite advisories being issued to the members of the community against the archaic practice, there seemed to be no decline in the number of cases of divorce by talaq-e-biddat, they claimed.

In a recent case, a man working with a leading educational institution divorced his wife through WhatsApp and SMS, the functionary said quoting media reports.