To begin with, it needs no rocket scientist to conclude that the reprehensible practice of instant triple talaq is just a step away from becoming a punishable offence after the Lok Sabha on December 28 passed this historic Bill by voice vote. The Bill expressly stipulates a jail sentence of up to three years for the guilty husband. The Bill draft says that, “Any pronouncement of talaq by a person upon his wife, by words either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever shall be void and illegal.” The Bill makes the declaration of instant triple talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Without a doubt, the Centre by making instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a punishable offence has given a big boon to all those Muslim women who get adversely affected by it and suffer for no fault of theirs!
But the endless woes of women just don’t end by this only! Polygamy or permission given under Muslim man to marry up to 4 wives is another much abused provision wherein it is the woman who is the worst sufferer. As if this is not enough, there is Nikah Halala also whereby if a Muslim man gives divorce to his wife and wants to marry him again then that Muslim woman is supposed to marry some other man, get divorce from him and then again marry her former husband!
Can on earth there be anything more atrocious than this? Still it is valid in India since last 70 years and has continued unabated, unpunished and unchecked! Arif Mohammad Khan who was Union minister in former PM late Rajiv Gandhi’s Cabinet has been most vocal in demanding the abolition of not just instant triple talaq but also nikah halala and polygamy but he had to leave the Cabinet as his voice was not heard on this and he was overruled! Centre must now act on these two evils also just like Nehruji very rightly banned Hindus from marrying more than once even though Lord Krishna had 16,108 wives, Shivaji too had many wives and it was very common for Hindus to marry as many as they liked with no one to stop them from marrying them as many times as they wanted! Hindus should never forget Nehruji for this great favour that he did to them because of which the population also has come under control and now similarly Modiji should also have the guts like Nehruji to do a favour on Muslims also by similarly abolishing these reprehensible practices which are retrograde and violate the dignity of woman in the most rash manner! No doubt, a good beginning has been made in this direction!
It is imperative to mention here that the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill by voice vote after rejecting a string of amendments moved by opposition members. The Congress said it supported the Bill but wanted it to be scrutinized by the Standing Committee of Parliament but this demand was rejected by the Chair. MPs from the RJD, AIMIM, BJD, AIADMK and All India Muslim League opposed the Bill and called it arbitrary in nature and a faulty proposal. Eminent Union Minister MJ Akbar who is himself a Muslim said that, “The law will give a big blow to those who want to keep women under the constant ‘fear and terror’ in the name of talaq”.
It must be mentioned here that the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had invoked the Shah Bano case at the BJP’s Parliamentary Party meeting on December 28 and had said that unlike Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not bow down on triple talaq. He briefed the BJP MPs of the triple talaq legislation. He said that, “Rajiv Gandhi bowed down to the lobbies and left Shah Bano mid-way. Our PM will not let any injustice done to Muslim women.” What Prasad has said is truly laudable but I will again reiterate that it must now outlaw nikah halala also and polygamy also because such derogatory practices cannot be justified under any circumstances!
Let me mince no words in saying this most directly: If polygamy is banned even among Muslims, the dangerous trend of Hindus and people from other religions converting to Muslims just for getting their second marriage validated would be checked hundred percent! Thus two birds will be killed with one stone! The dangerous menace of “Love Jihad” can also be effectively checked by this!
But the moot question here is: Will Centre show the requisite courage to act in this direction by acting similarly as it has done in the case of instant talaq or will it succumb in front of those who are big leaders but who never want the Muslim woman to truly become independent which alone explain why they oppose tooth and nail any type of changes in Muslim laws and this includes derogatory practices also like nikah halala and polygamy? Only time will tell! But I am still optimistic that Centre would place national interests first and take the right decision accordingly! Banning polygamy will not just check exploitation of women, conversion of people from their own religion to Islam just for marrying more wives than one but will also go a lot ahead in checking the population of our country which right now is growing by leaps and bounds and it is widely anticipated that if we go by this rate we would soon leave even China behind in next few years to become the world’s most populated country!
To put things in perspective, while calling it a historic step, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Bill – The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 – will act as a deterrent since there have been 100 cases of triple talaq even after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in August this year. We all know that in the landmark case of Shayara Bano v Union of India, the Supreme Court has outlawed instant triple talaq and very rightly so! Who can question this?
Going forward, Prasad made it a point to further mention that while 22 Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh have regulated instant triple talaq, there was no effective law in India. He further went on to say that, “The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill seeks to ensure the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help sub-serve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.” Very rightly said!
It must be mentioned here that Clause 3 stipulates that instant triple talaq in any form shall be void and illegal. Clause 4 mentions that husband giving triple talaq to serve a jail term of up to three years and pay fine. A Sampath of CPM asked that, “Why is there no mention of the maximum quantum of fine in the Bill?” This is because the Judge has then the discretion to impose fine seeing the financial condition of Muslim men! Clause 5 envisages that the married Muslim woman shall be entitled to alimony. Sushmita Dev of Congress on this asked that, “Who will give the maintenance if the husband goes to jail?” All these questions must be addressed before it is finally made a law! The amount of the allowance will be decided by a first class Magistrate.
Shaista Amber who is All India Muslim Woman Personal Law Board President hailed the judgment saying that, “I thank Allah, the government, the Supreme Court, Law Commission and all MPs”. Taking a dig at those opposing the Bill, Shaista questioned that, “What had they done for our rights?” Shayara Bano who led the sacred fight to ban instant triple talaq too expressed happiness but added a rider that, “After triple talaq, even other practices such as polygamy and nikah halala should be banned in our society. The way in which women are tortured in the name of these ill-practices should be stopped”.
Shayara Bano also reiterated that, “I will once again file a petition to ban polygamy and nikah halala in the top court. I will continue my fight against ill-practices among the Muslim community. These types of practices should be abolished from the Indian society for the development of our country.” After she filed the petition against instant triple talaq, it must be mentioned that thousands of Muslim women across the country came together demanding that triple talaq be abolished. Shayara has shown that any person can change the system if there is determination and will power to do so even if he/she comes from an ordinary family with a humble background! Kudos to her as she deserves all the laurels for prompting even the Supreme Court and Centre to act positively in this regard!
Eminent jurist and former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee very rightly appealed not to bring religion into the triple talaq Bill. He elegantly said that, “It’s a very good move that requires legislation. Don’t bring religion into it as the whole thrust of the legislation is to ensure gender equality and to see women are not treated in an arbitrary manner.” He also said that the Bill was being opposed for the vested interests.
He further added that the legislation would ensure gender equality. All of us must firmly believe in what Sorabjee has said and seriously adhere to what he has said as he is one of the brightest gem and jurist that India has known and has mentored even many other eminent jurists like Harish Salve who worked with him from 1980 to 1986! It is certainly a revolutionary step in the right direction but still all efforts must be made to cure it of all shortcomings before it is finally made into a law!
Hope and pray earnestly that it is soon also cleared by the Rajya Sabha and made into a law so that Muslim women can be saved from this worst curse which in one second destroys her whole life with no way left for her to go! It is high time and now all efforts must be made to outlaw even other derogatory practices like nikah halala and polygamy as demanded by Shayara Bano, Arif Mohammad Khan and others which must be immediately thrown out into the dustbin of history by repealing it once and for all!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh