In a historic decision, PM Narendra Modi-led central government on Wednesday cleared the promulgation of the Triple Talaq ordinance which criminalises the practice of verbal divorce among Muslim men.
The Ordinance will now be sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his signature which will finally result in the poromulgation of the ordinance into a law. Once implemented, the law will stand for six months within which it will have to be brought back to parliament for legislative approval. With the six-month period coming to an end in March 2019, which will be election time, both Congress and the BJP will be cautious on their stand on the issue as it may have a direct impact on the poll outcome.
The Congress criticised BJP government’s move. Party spokersperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Modi government not making this an issue for justice for Muslim women, but making this into a political issue.”
Speaking to media, Law minister Ravishankar Prasad slammed the Congress for opposing the bill. “It’s my serious charge with full sense of responsibility that a distinguished woman leader is ultimate leader of the Congress, yet barbaric inhuman Triple Talaq was not allowed to be ended by a Parliamentary law for pure vote bank politics,” Prasad said.
The decision came a month after the government had approved certain safeguards in it such as adding a provision of bail for the accused before trial. On August 9, the Union Cabinet had approved three amendments to the ‘Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill’ which has been cleared by Lok Sabha and pending approval of Rajya Sabha. The government was unable to pass the Triple Talaq bill during the Monsoon Session and the Budget Session of Parliament.
After amendments, the law will remain “non-bailable” and accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. Under a non-bailable law, bail cannot be granted by police at the police station itself. The move was taken to allay fears among Muslim men. The government added the provision to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”.
“There were fears and we have plugged the holes … nothing has been done under pressure,” Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said after the decision. Also, the government had inserted a provision which made it clear that the police would lodge FIR only if approached by the victim (wife), her blood relations or people who become her relatives by virtue of her marriage.
“This would settle fears that even a neighbour can file FIR as is the cases in any cognisable offence. This would check misuse,” the minister said.
The third amendment makes the offence of instant triple talaq “compoundable” which means that the magistrate can use his powers to settle the dispute between a husband and his wife.