Former Congress leader Arif Mohammad Khan blamed the grand old party for the stalemate over the triple talaq bill in Rajya Sabha, alleging that it had acted on the directions of the AIMPLB in the Upper House. Khan, a staunch supporter of reforms in the Muslim personal laws, had resigned from the Rajiv Gandhi-led government in 1986 due to his differences over the Muslim personal law bill piloted by the dispensation to nullify the verdict in the Shah Bano case. “You are exercising your power (as members of Rajya Sabha) to meet the whims of one organisation. You could have said your views (of AIMPLB) would be considered sympathetically. This raises serious questions, including about the dignity of the House,” he claimed. He blamed the Congress for stalling the triple talaq bill in the Upper House. Defending the provision for a three year imprisonment in the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, Khan said, “Only through an effective deterrent punishment can the criminal act of instant divorce be checked.” Khan told Rajya Sabha TV in an interview that instant divorce was a criminal act under Islamic jurisprudence and it deserved an effective, deterrent punishment. “They (Congress) made a law in 1986 to negate the Supreme Court’s judgement in favour of Muslim women in the Shah Bano case and they now stopped a law being made in pursuance of the judgement of the apex court. It is a clear case of political expediency,” he alleged.
The Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case had upheld the right to alimony. Its judgement had triggered a controversy about the extent to which courts can interfere in Muslim personal law. Khan claimed that there was growing support among Muslim men as well for the bill. Speaking on the opposition’s demands over subsistence allowance for Muslim woman, he said the bill was for a limited purpose of enforcing the Supreme Court’s judgement. The government has to enforce all laws, including those emanating from the Supreme Court, he added. Khan claimed that when the Congress did not refer the Shah Bano Bill to any committee, how could they now demand that the triple talaq bill be referred to a select committee. The bill criminalising talaq-e-biddat was passed by the Lok Sabha in the recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament but was stuck in the Rajya Sabha. Opposition parties as well as NDA ally TDP had reservations over criminal provisions in the draft law. MPs in the Upper House had demanded that the bill, which proposes to make triple talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence, be referred to a parliamentary committee for review.