President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the triple talaq bill passed by the Parliament, turning it into a law which makes the practice of instant divorce among Muslims a punishable offence, a government notification said.
The gazette notification, published on Wednesday (August 1), says that the president has given assent to the bill passed by the Parliament. The Act will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 21 this year to the same effect.
The new law ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019’ makes talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce pronounced by a Muslim husband void and illegal. It makes it illegal to pronounce talaq three times in spoken, written or through SMS or WhatsApp or any other electronic chat in one sitting.
“Any pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal,” the law says. Any Muslim husband who pronounces the illegal form of talaq upon his wife shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, it says.
The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha with 99 votes in favour and 84 against, as the ruling NDA, which lacks majority in the upper house, was helped by the absence of some members of the opposition Congress, SP, and BSP as well as six members of Telangana Rashtra Samithi and two MPs of YSR-Congress.
The triple talaq bill could not make it through the upper house earlier this year during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, although it was passed by Lok Sabha. The bill was again passed by the Lok Sabha last week amid a walkout by several opposition parties including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress.
The opposition parties had said in its current form, the proposed law could be misused to harass Muslims and wanted it to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee. Criminalising the offence, the bill gives a police officer powers to arrest the offender without requiring a warrant, they had said.
To check misuse of cognisable nature of the offence, the bill makes the declaration of talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence only if the complaint is filed by the aggrieved woman or any of her relation by blood or marriage, the Act says.
A magistrate can grant bail only after hearing the aggrieved woman, it says. The aggrieved woman is entitled to demand a maintenance for her and her dependent children under the Act.
Opposing the bill, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had said that a law should not be made to “finish one particular religion” and claimed that the “cat has come out of the bag”.
He said that the government should not target one section by framing an “unconstitutional” law but instead provide 33 per cent reservation to women in legislatures for their empowerment, the way Congress government had brought in reservation for women in panchayats, corporations, and local bodies.