After a bill already passed in the Lok Sabha and pending in Rajya Sabha, a fresh bill to penalize Triple Talaq was tabled on Monday in the Lok Sabha. This bill replaces an ordinance issued in September. The proposed bill states that instant Triple Talaq will stand null and void and will incur an imprisonment of three years for the husband.
The previous bill met with opposition from some parties in the upper house but the government cleared a few amendments, including making it a bailable offence. But when the criticism around the bill didn’t stop in the RaJya Sabha, the government passed an ordinance incorporating the amendments.
An ordinance is valid for six months but when the Parliament session begins, the government must replace the ordinance with a bill which should be passed in the upper house within six weeks of tabling for it to be effective. However, the government has the liberty to reinstate the ordinance if the bill fails to get through Parliament.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad presented the bill in the Lok Sabha. He said that despite Supreme Court invalidating Triple Talaq, husbands were still divorcing their wives on non-consequential grounds and on WhatsApp.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor opposed the bill and said that there is no reason to make divorce a penal offence and its provisions are against the basic principles of the Constitution. Prasad argued that the ministry has made some improvements in the bill and that it will help Muslim women in the long run.
The new bill makes Triple Talaq a “non-bailable” offence but the accused can approach the magistrate before trial begins to seek bail. A non-bailable offence does not give police the power to give bail in the police station itself.
A provision in the bill allows a magistrate to offer bail to the accused after hearing the wife. It is the magistrate’s duty to ensure that the accused agrees to provide compensation to his partner as stated in the bill. Magistrate will decide the amount of compensation. The police can only file a complaint if the wife herself, her blood relatives or her matrimonial relatives approach the police.
The bill is “compoundable”, which means that both parties can withdraw the case and the magistrate has the authority to settle the dispute between the husband and the wife if only the wife approaches the court.
A provision in the bill allows magistrate to offer bail to the accused after hearing the wife. It is the magistrate’s duty to ensure that the accused agrees to provide compensation to his partner as stated in the bill. Magistrate will decide the amount of compensation.
The provision only applies to instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and it would allow the wife to approach the magistrate to seek “subsistence allowance” for herself and her minor children. The woman also has the liberty to seek the custody of her minor children but the magistrate will make the final decision.
To emphasize on the issue, the government informed the Lok Sabha last week that a total of 430 cases of Triple Talaq have happened since it became unconstitutional. Of these, 229 cases happened before the Supreme Court judgement and 201 after that. These cases were filed between January 2017 and September 13, 2018.