The decision of the Court to criminalise triple talaq is a show of promise that the Indian judiciary system if changing for good.
The Union Government’s use of the Ordinance route to criminalise instant triple talaq was on expected lines. It was due to the inability of the Rajya Sabha to legislate business, which prevented it from taking up the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill thanks to ruckus in the House and a lack of consensus on the issue, that the Modi Government was compelled to fulfil its promise to Muslim women to bring end to the practice of Muslim men granting instant triple talaq to their wives. Neither, however, was opposition to the Ordinance unexpected. As has been the norm, helming the anti-ordinance agitation were Muslim clerics and various Opposition parties who flayed the move for a clutch of reasons. While some accused the Government of “intervening in personal laws” others termed the Ordinance as ‘harsh on Muslim women instead of providing them succour’. The Congress smelt political conspiracy and accused the Government of treating the matter more as a “political football” than a matter of justice to Muslim women. But the elephant in the room, as it were, is that the objective behind the move, which is to bring about gender equity, was elided by all.
As regards the argument of Muslim clerics, the problem is that the issue is no longer a matter of ‘personal law’ or under the aegis of Muslim Personal Law because the Supreme Court had in a majority verdict ruled that instant triple talaq is illegal, unconstitutional and not an integral part of the religion of Islam. Further, the apex had asked the Government to bring forth legislation against talaq-e-biddat. The Government was duty-bound to do so, and it did. When opposition in the Upper House stalled the Bill, it resorted to the proclamation of an ordinance. Cut and dried, that is the correct position. As for the objections about the penal provisions being harsh towards Muslim women, as in they would be left uncared for financially while their ‘husbands’ who have divorced them via triple talaq languish in jail, several provisions of the Ordinance have been amended to take care of women in such a situation given the patriarchal structure of Indian Muslim society. To cite an example, provision has been made for providing a sustenance allowance to a victim of illegal triple talaq. Also, only the woman herself or her close blood relatives can file a case thus eliminating the possibility of interference from other parties. The Ordinance further provides for bail to the husband but only after hearing the wife. Besides, opportunities for reconciliation too are kept open provided the woman wants it. This issue goes beyond the boundaries of politics. Gender justice must always trump claimed religious practice. That is the whole point of individual rights and freedoms in the Constitution that assure each individual citizen of India the right not be discriminated against.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer