Huge Victory for rights of Muslim women: Modi Govt Takes Ordinance Route to Make Triple Talaq a Punishable Offence

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making triple talaq a punishable offence after the government failed to pass the bill through both houses of the Parliament.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making triple talaq a punishable offence after the government failed to pass the bill through both houses of the Parliament.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making triple talaq a punishable offence after the government failed to pass the bill through both houses of the Parliament.

The ordinance would have similar provisions as The Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Marriage Act, popularly known as triple talaq bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha in December last year.

Though the ordinance has been cleared for now, it must be placed before the Parliament and the bill would still need to be passed because in a January 2017 verdict, the Supreme Court had held that “re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the constitution” and hence not allowed. It cannot become a “parallel source of legislation.”

The bill had faced a stiff resistance in the Rajya Sabha where several Opposition lawmakers argued that it was drafted “shoddily” and must be sent to a Select Committee for close scrutiny.

The bill makes instant “triple talaq” a criminal offence and proposes a three-year jail term for a Muslim man who divorces his wife by uttering the word “talaq” thrice. It has provisions for imprisonment and fine for anyone invoking it.

It also deals with subsistence allowance to a Muslim woman and her children from the estranged man as well as custodial rights of minor children.

It covers instant triple talaq delivered in any form — whether delivered orally, including telephone or a mobile call, or in writing or through electronic medium like Watsapp or SMS — illegal.

The bill, however, had become a political flash point as the Congress and certain other opposition parties opposed to certain provisions of the bill, including the three-year jail term.

Rejecting criticism that it was stonewalling the legislation, the party said putting the bread-winner of a family in jail would not just be injustice to his family, but also to the woman and her children as they would be left to fend for themselves without financial support during that period.

The Congress had told law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad would be ready to support the bill, even with the criminal clause, if the government takes upon itself the responsibility of financially supporting all Muslim women whose husbands are in jail for pronouncing instant triple talaq.

But the government had rejected the proposal. To bolster its case, the Centre had even sought the opinion of all state governments on the subject, and, most of them had supported the bill in its present form.

The ordinance comes just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised Muslim women “that the entire nation is there with them and we will ensure that they get justice.”

The Supreme Court had in a verdict in August last year declared instant triple talaq illegal and unconstitutional. Muslim women had petitioned the court, arguing that practice of husbands divorcing them through “Triple Talaq”, including by Skype and WhatsApp, not only violated their rights but also left many women destitute.

But even after the Supreme Court declared it illegal, some Muslim men continued with the practice of instant talaq. While there were 177 reported cases of triple talaq before the Supreme Court verdict in August last, 70 such cases instances were reported after the order.

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