On a day when Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 — which makes talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq a “cognizable and non-bailable offence” — in the Rajya Sabha, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said the Bill was “defective” and “politically motivated”, and would not serve the interest of Muslim women.
Speaking on the Bill for the first time, Banerjee said, “We never opposed the proposed Bill on instant triple talaq because we are in favour of protection of Muslim women. There are people in the Muslim community who abide by the laws and customs of their religion. They don’t believe in such practices. Despite this, the BJP has brought forward a defective Bill. Instead of giving protection to Muslim women, they are doing politics with the Bill. Muslim women will face a lot of trouble once this Bill is passed. We don’t want Muslim women to face any injustice, but this is a politically motivated Bill.”
While the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last week, a united Opposition stalled a debate on it in the Rajya Sabha. As soon as Prasad introduced the Bill, Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Ray moved an amendment for referring it to a select committee.
The leader of the House Arun Jaitley resorted to the rule book to argue that both amendments moved by Ray and Sharma were not admissible as they had not followed procedure. He pointed out that the proposed select committee did not have any BJP member. However, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien ruled that both amendments had been allowed by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
As the war of words continued, Kurien finally adjourned the House for the day, without giving any ruling on the validity of the Opposition’s motion on the select panel.
In the Lok Sabha last week, Opposition parties like the RJD, AIMIM, BJD, IUML and AIADMK objected when the Bill was being introduced. But the Opposition parties did not rally together at the time the Bill was taken up for voting at the end of the discussion. The Congress did not even give notice to oppose introduction of the Bill and the Trinamool Congress did not participate in the discussion.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 has provisions of “imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine” for any Muslim man who divorces his wife by uttering talaq three times in quick succession. It also provides for “subsistence allowance” to Muslim women and custody of minor children as “may be determined by the magistrate”.
The government drafted the Bill after the Supreme Court, in a landmark 3-2 verdict on August 22, set aside the practice of talaq-e-biddat. Three of five judges on the Constitution Bench — Justices Rohinton F Nariman, Uday U Lalit and Kurian Joseph — called the practice un-Islamic and “arbitrary” and disagreed with the view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice.
But the minority ruling of then Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, while underlining the primacy of Muslim personal law, said the practice enjoyed constitutional protection and was beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny. They were of the view that Parliament should consider an “appropriate” law to deal with the issue of talaq-e-biddat.
By – Pratibha Elin Lakra