When the apex court pronounced talaq-e-biddat (triple talaq) as unconstitutional last year in August, it provided a sense of relief and security to all Muslim women of this country.
Almost everyone lauded the judgment. It was indeed a landmark judgment, and the apex court directed the government to formulate a law to debar this arbitrary and archaic form of practice to dissolve a marriage, which gave high-handed impunity to the husband, and provides no remedy to the aggrieved wife.
Following the apex court directions, the government tabled “The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017” or what is more commonly known as the “Triple Talaq Bill”. Unfortunately, its provisions stand contrary to its name.
There are some fundamental problems with this Act, as the whole act in itself, is a contradiction. Section 3 makes the pronouncement of talaq through any form, electronic, verbal or written, void and illegal. Section 4 makes it a criminal offence with the imprisonment, which may be extended to three years. It also makes it more stringent by making it a non-bailable and cognizable offence. This whole act seems ambiguous and illogical. There are questions which remain unanswered.
1. Fundamentally, Muslim marriage is a civil contract. So how can there be a penal liability of its dissolution?
2. The word ‘void’, according to the Oxford dictionary, means something that is not valid or legally binding. So how does a word or act which is not legally binding, create a case of any liability, either civil or penal?
3. Section 7 makes this act cognizable and non-bailable. This makes it impossible for any reconciliation between a husband and a wife.
4. The offence doesn’t specifically provide any description of the complainant, which means anyone can be a complainant like in any other criminal offence under CrPC. This, in my opinion, is very absurd and makes Muslim men more vulnerable in the eyes of the law.
5. Section 5 talks about subsistence allowance for wife and children as determined by the magistrate. Now, what is subsistence allowance? The Oxford dictionary defines subsistence allowance as “an allowance or advance on someone’s pay.” Under Indian law, subsistence allowance is a term used mostly in service jurisprudence, especially in laws relating to workmen. The usage of the term underlines the misogyny in the thought process of the law-makers who consider the wife to be an employee of the husband.
6. But the above provision of subsistence allowance is itself contradictory as a husband is in jail. Under those circumstances, how can he be able to provide any support for his family?
The above act, which was passed in the lower house of the parliament without any serious discussions and scrutiny can cause some severe consequence. Now, as it is tabled in the upper house, they have a responsibility to pass this act only after strict scrutiny, and it should be sent to a committee if needed.
In my opinion, this act shows the desperation of the BJP to prove themselves as the messiah of the minority. But the question is, whether stringent laws prevent a criminal act, or do they have reformatory capabilities?
It is neither, a fact proven in many other criminally liable acts of rape, crime against women, administrative and bureaucratic corruption etc. Another question which arises is whether this whole issue requires a criminal and stringent law when there is 498A IPC and The Dowry Prohibition Act is already in place? Are the already existing acts, not appropriate to meet any injustice?
Empirical data show that, the percentage of women aggrieved by triple talaq was 0.2%. Thus, in my opinion, this overly enthusiastic positive sentiment for Muslim women seems very flawed and nothing but a political stunt. The fact is, that the question of gender justice has never been a priority for this government, as matrimonial offences like marital rape still need recognition as a criminal offence.
Death threats to Deepika Padukone in the “Padmavati” controversy and many other cases of moral policing perpetrated by factions of the Sangh Parivar and others like them, often question women’s freedom and their independence.
The way I see it, all these BJP leaders are a product of the RSS who think women are not worthy enough to stand equally with men. Time and again, it has been proven that the laws always had been highly influenced by the ideology of the ruling party. Problems like triple talaq, marital rape, wife beating, etc. are a problem of the mentality of people, which obviously require a criminal action. But, we also need to understand it as a societal problem.
In this man’s world, women are very often subject to mental and physical violence. The very foundation of our society is against women, and so their upbringing and that very foundation need to questioned and demolished to achieve a just society.
The laws like above, will only form discontent in the family and makes Muslim men more vulnerable to criminal liability. This law is an absurd form of legislation and shows the failure of the government to understand the whole issue.