The Lok Sabha passed a bill on Thursday aimed at prosecuting Muslim men who divorce their wives through the "triple talaq", or instant divorce. But the Bill needs to be watertight when it comes to the financial security of women.
The day saw intense debate in Parliament over the Bill, and Union minister of law, Ravi Shankar Prasad, led the Centre's argument by defending the Bill, which was drafted in just three months after the landmark Supreme Court judgement in August this year.
Clarifying that the husband can always apply to the magistrate for bail, Prasad said that not only does the proposed law declare instant triple talaq void and illegal, it also makes such a pronouncement punishable with a fine and imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years.
The new direction of policy is reflected also in the attitude towards the instant triple talaq issue, which has become a touchstone of Muslim sensibility.
The bill was passed amid hue and cry of most of the leading political parties in the Opposition, together with the Congress party, voting in favor of the bill, but with some cautions. In its old avatar, it would have perhaps gone with the mullahs but this time around, it is caught on the horns of a dilemma and its spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has announced that the Congress supports the law of banning instant triple talaq but qualified it by saying that it believes that "there is a need to strengthen this law".
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He said the government had to come out with the Bill since triple talaq continued to be in practice despite being outlawed by the Supreme Court in August.
The discussion of the Bill in the Lok Sabha has drawn mixed views from experts.
"This Bill, once turned into a law, would act as a deterrent (against practice of triple talaq)" Prasad said, dismissing the allegation by some opposition MPs that the government was pushing through the Bill to reap political dividends out of it. Some questioned the government's intention over criminalising the practice of triple talaq while others pointed out how could a man in jail provide subsistence allowance.
However, commenting on the provision of allowance, Mr. Atul said that there is no contradiction in the bill.
Opposition parties demanded changes in the Bill and more consultations on it. Parties including the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that the Bill be sent to a standing committee for further discussions. Party sources said the decision had to do with the party's electoral compulsions in West Bengal. She said all doors for reconciliation in a marriage would shut once the husband goes to jail. "Women of other communities have enjoyed legal protection but Muslim women have suffered; in this regard, we welcome the bill". She added it can be said that the government brought this law in a haste. She said the government should not isolate a single community, and instead let family courts intervene to send estranged couples for counselling.