Delivering a lecture here on 'Why triple talaq should be made a punishable offence', Khan said a lot of "churning is taking place in Rajya Sabha" over the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019.
Batting for criminalising the practice of triple talaq, former Union minister Arif Mohammad Khan on Friday said that if it is not done the Modi government will be committing the same mistake as Rajiv Gandhi did in the Shah Bano case. Without naming the Congress, Khan said the party that had won over 400 seats in 1984 was suffering from the “curse of the destitute”. “What was Shah Bano given? Rs 147 to keep her body and soul together. The curse of destitute is haunting” them, he said. Khan said he wrote a six-page letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October last year, requesting him to criminalise the practice of triple talaq.
“In the letter, I explained to him how in 1986 by enacting a law we reversed the judgement of the Supreme Court and now if we do not enact a law to ensure that the judgement of the Supreme Court is followed in letter and spirit, if we fail to make a law to criminalise triple talaq then we would be making the same mistake that was committed in 1986,” he said.
Delivering a lecture here on ‘Why triple talaq should be made a punishable offence’, Khan said a lot of “churning is taking place in Rajya Sabha” over the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019. “I am hopeful that this time the ordinance criminalising triple talaq would be passed by Rajya Sabha as there is a lot of churning taking place and people are talking about what happened in 1986 (Shah Bano case),” he said.
Khan was a minister of state in the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 but he resigned over the government’s stand in the Shah Bano case. Shah Bano was a Muslim woman from Indore. Divorced by her husband in 1978, she filed a criminal suit in court and won the right to alimony from her husband. Her husband had challenged the lower court’s order in the Supreme Court which upheld the lower court’s order. However, the then Rajiv Gandhi government brought a bill – Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 in Parliament to reverse the judgment.
Khan had openly opposed the government’s decision to bring a bill in Parliament to reverse the Supreme Court’s order that the victim of the triple talaq has right to demand maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which applies to all citizens regardless of caste or religion. Strongly supporting criminalisation of the practice of triple talaq, Khan said there is absolutely no doubt that if it becomes a proper law then it would help in upholding the dignity of women. He said the common argument given to oppose its criminalisation is that it is a matter of civil law not criminal.
“What these eloquently speaking men do not understand is that divorce is a civil matter and no one, neither a Hindu nor a Muslim, would be jailed for divorcing his wife but the practice of Triple Talaq is criminal,” he said. The Supreme Court had in 2017 banned the practice of triple talaq. But since the practice was still prevalent, a bill was brought to make it a penal offence. With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month, the bill had lapsed as it was pending in Rajya Sabha.
The Bill, which proposes to make the practice of instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) a penal offence, had faced objections from the opposition parties which claimed that jail term for a man for divorcing his wife was legally untenable. A fresh bill, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, has now been introduced in Lok Sabha to replace an ordinance issued in February by the previous BJP-led NDA government.
The new bill is a copy of the ordinance in force. The government had promulgated the ordinance on triple talaq twice — in September 2018 and in February 2019 — as the contentious bill remained pending in Rajya Sabha Under the Bill, divorcing through instant triple talaq is illegal, void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.