In a hurry
There are many reasons to welcome the bill outlawing talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq, called the Muslim women (protection of the rights on marriage) bill. Instant divorce, the moment the husband pronounced ' talaq' three times in succession, was a cruel practice, one of the various rules in most religions that cause women suffering. The movement against it was headed by, among others, women from the minority community, who welcomed the Supreme Court judgment in August 2017 that made instant triple talaq illegal. That is, pronouncing talaq three times successively would have no legal effect on the marriage. By showing that the practice was not supported by the Quran, the court pointed out that what was bad in theology was bad in law. The judgment, while preventing the violation of rights, was also a step towards gender justice.
In a rare show of eagerness, the legislature formulated a bill criminalizing instant triple talaq within months of the Supreme Court's pronouncement. Usually it is quite normal for years to elapse before the court's expressed desire for legislation on a particular matter is realized. Perhaps used to this interval, the government forgot the truth of the adage about more haste, less speed. For instead of the full-hearted welcome that could have been expected from women of the minority community, campaigning lawyers and other activists, the bill is facing serious criticism. The critics point out anomalies that may undermine the gains of the women whose marriages the bill seeks to protect. By making the pronouncement of instant triple talaq a cognizable, non-bailable criminal offence with three years imprisonment, the bill is perceived to have gone far beyond the court's judgment. If the court has made talaq-e-biddat ineffective, with no influence on the wife's marital status, how can it be criminal? Putting the man in jail punishes the family as much as it does him - for having pronounced some useless words - and talking about maintenance, as the bill does, imagines a situation of divorce, not the protection of marriage rights. Besides, a cognizable offence means that anyone against whom a complaint of pronouncing triple talaq together has been made must be taken into custody. Instead of gender justice, the bill, it is said, is creating gender injustice for both genders in the minority community. Unless it is hammered through, the bill may have some way to go before it becomes law.