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Opinion: The Triple Talaq Bill Is About Women’s Constitutional Rights And Not Just Religion

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The Muslim Women (Protection of rights on marriage) bill 2019 dealing with instant triple talaq was once again passed in the Lok Sabha on 25th July 2019. It’s the third time that the Lok Sabha passed this bill after failing to pass in Rajya Sabha in 2017 and 2018. It’s now again in the Rajya Sabha, where it is likely to face obstacles as BJP is short of a majority in that house and the NDA constituent party JDU has decided to oppose the bill.

Vote Bank Considerations

If Narendra Modi is able to convince parties like TRS, BJD, YSRCP etc. to support the bill, then it can be converted to an act. The contentious RTI amendment bill was passed in that way, but then TRS and YSRCP also have vote-bank considerations with this bill; thus only time will tell whether this bill will be lucky the third time around.

Why Is This Bill Being Opposed?

My point of discussion in this article is, why the opposition to this bill? I have found four basic arguments from the opposing parties.

First, they say it’s a religious issue and government intervention is unconstitutional. Is it religious? Well, we will delve into this question in the latter part of the article. But how it could be unconstitutional after the Supreme Court gave the verdict that instant triple talaq itself is unconstitutional?

The second objection is that Muslim bodies were not consulted on the triple talaq bill. The question is, should governments consult with religious people? Isn’t the country secular? What’s the meaning of secularism? Isn’t it ‘the principle of separation of the state from religious institution’? So why does the state consult with religious bodies?

Next, when the Hindu Code bill or Hindu marriage act, 1955 was framed, did the state ever consult with Hindu religious bodies? When the special marriage act, 1954 framed and passed for marriages of all other religions and inter-caste and inter-religion marriages, was there any consultation with rother religious bodies?

Now, is this talaq matter purely religious? I have gone through the records of various Islamic countries including Arabian countries. 19 countries abolished instant triple talaq. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia have abolished general triple talaq. They established various courts to adjudicate divorce between husband and wife.

I believe marriages and divorces are social issues. Social rules change according to time and accordingly some traditional rules may have to adapt to laws of the state.

Why Is The BJP Bent Upon On The Triple Talaq Bill?

The triple talaq bill has made instant triple talaq a criminal offence for which the husband may be jailed for up to three years. A question has been raised by those opposing the bill “How will a jailed husband give remuneration to the wife?”

My questions are simple, does BJP seek Muslim women votes? Should the government work for vote bank politics? Aren’t the Muslim women victims of instant triple talaq subjected to discrimination and torture? Shouldn’t they get the same rights as the women of other religions?

Should a person/woman get different treatment just because they were born in a particular religion? Where is the equality as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution? All governments must ensure that they uphold the constitutional spirit irrespective of whether it politically benefits to them or not.

In my opinion, Narendra Modi is trying to uphold the Constitutional mandate and not doing vote bank politics by getting this bill passed.

My Advice to The Congress Party

I believe that in some cases, vote bank politics is alright, but it should never be done by violating the Constitutional spirit. Rajiv Gandhi won the highest mandate in the 1984 general election, yet it allegedly came under the pressure of vote bank politics when the SC decreed in favour of Saha Bano in the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan versus Shah Bano Begum regarding the right to maintenance post-divorce in 1985.

Rajiv Gandhi, under pressure from religious clerics, diluted the SC verdict through ‘The Muslim Women (protection on right to divorce) Act’, 1986. Was this purely for vote bank politics?

This created dissent among non-Muslim communities as it was seen as blatant appeasement to the Muslim community. To appease the Hindu community, and as a balancing act, Rajiv Gandhi opened the lock of the Babri Mosque in 1986, which ultimately turned into the Babri mosque-Ram temple face-off. The way I see it, the result is obvious. The Congress never got a majority on its own after that.

I am always of the opinion that it’s time for the Congress to correct it’s 1985 Saha Bano blunder and show support to the triple talaq bill. But then, when the party has decided to end up in oblivion, who can save them.

In conclusion, I would like to say that religion is a private matter. Everybody has the freedom to profess once’s religion. However, if some rules or clauses of the religion or its interpretation/misinterpretation inflict violation of one’s Constitutional right (equality, dignity etc) then the state has to intervene and redress such discriminations through laws, irrespective of whether the law is going against a religious dictate or not.

A secular country should always be committed to Constitutional provisions and the spirit and never concede to any religious/social dictate. In any case, for the last six years, we are witnessing vote bank politics, which is demolished by the people who are aware of the intent of practitioners of such vote-bank politics. When will such caste/religion-based politicians wake up and smell the coffee?

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