A long overdue law enacted

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which has just been passed by the Lok Sabha is a long overdue piece of legislation. But it will find its place in the statute book only after it has been passed by the Rajya Sabha, then received presidential assent and ultimately notified in the official gazette stating the date on which  it will become effective. Its passage through the Rajya Sabha may not be easy. Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill are the most important ones. Section 3 makes triple talaq of a Muslim woman by her husband “void and illegal” while Section 4 provides for a prison term for the husband who divorces his wife by triple talaq of three years and fine.
During the passage of the Bill a number of members of the Lok Sabha, both Hindu and Muslim, opposed it on frivolous grounds. One familiar tune was that if the husband is jailed, who will support the (divorced) wife. This argument does not hold water for a moment because if the wife is talaq-ed and thrown out in the street, she will have to fend for herself from that moment on. In fact instead of the Government taking the initiative for enacting such a law, the demand for such a law should have come from within the Muslim community itself long ago. The opposition to the Bill is inexplicable because as many as nineteen countries have already banned triple talaq. Two of India’s immediate neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have also banned it.
It is understandable that the orthodox clerics who hold the Muslim community in India in their vise-like grip, should be dead against any law which puts an end to a very iniquitous practice. But why should some Hindu MPs oppose a law that liberates the Muslim women from the arbitrary termination of marriage by their husbands at the drop of a hat?  In fact they should have welcomed the law as being in keeping with India’s secular polity. If there are common civil and criminal laws for all citizens of India irrespective of religion, by the same logic there should be a personal law also which should be universal for all citizens. The Hindu Code Bill (a set of four complementary laws) was passed by Parliament as far back as 1955-56. It was piloted by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself. It has taken more than six decades for the Parliament to pass the triple talaq law. That it has been finally done should be a matter of rejoice.

Wednesday, 3 January, 2018