Despite much obstruction by the opposition parties, the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was successful in getting the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 passed. This law bans the regressive practice of instantaneous talaq (divorce) to Muslim women which was used as a tool to harass women.
After the President’s assent, it will become illegal for any Muslim man to divorce his wife merely by saying Talaq, Talaq, Talaq in one sitting.
The government had introduced the bill on June 21, 2019. It was passed by Lok Sabha on July 25, 2019, and by Rajya Sabha on July 30, 2019. It will now only require assent of the President of India.
Source: Times News Service
Here are some of the important provisions under the bill.
There are different forms of talaq under Muslim personal laws. This bill criminalizes talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce pronounced by a Muslim husband. In talaq-e-biddat, a Muslim husband could divorce his wife instantly by pronouncing the word talaq three times in one sitting.
The Bill also makes all such declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, as illegal.
The Bill makes such declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, allowing police to arrest the accused without a warrant on the complaint of women against whom the divorce has been pronounced or by a person related to her by blood or marriage.
The offense will attract the imprisonment up to three years with a fine.
The magistrate may grant bail to the accused after hearing the women (against whom the divorce has been pronounced) and if the magistrate thinks that there are reasonable grounds for the bail.
The women, against whom the divorce has been pronounced, are entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and her dependent children. She is also entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The amount of allowance and manner of custody will be determined by the magistrate.
Passage of this bill is nothing short of an achievement for the government and for society. In Rajya Sabha, the Modi government required strategic floor management to get the bill passed as some of the NDA’s own allies (part of the government) themselves abstained from the voting. In the end, 99 MPs voted in support of the bill while 84 MPs voted against the bill.
It is unfortunate to witness that legislation empowering women had to face protests and walk-outs by the opposition parties.