Why the rush to criminalise triple talaq?
When the Rajya Sabha ponders, it is time for an ordinance. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government does not believe in parliamentary discussion and debate. This opposition to democratic functioning is part of its USP: one of the BJP president’s dreams is to make Bharat “Opposition-mukt”. Or to ensure that the BJP’s might is right. The principles behind ordinance formulation offers little scope for the passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2018 when the 2017 bill of the same name is pending discussion in the Rajya Sabha. Yet the President of India has signed it. Is the matter that urgent and is there no parliamentary session where the matter can be discussed? The sequence of events suggests that the BJP is abusing principles of governance to push through the law against instant triple talaq in precisely the form that it wants. Its method intends to make debates in Parliament irrelevant.
The Supreme Court made instant triple talaq irrelevant by setting it aside as bad in religion and in law in 2017. The government hurriedly turned this into a bill to be passed. Its purpose was revealed by the nature of the proposed law. Any form of divorce is a civil matter; the bill turned it into a crime by proposing three years of prison for any man who pronounced instant triple talaq. A crime such as rioting can attract three years’ imprisonment, while causing death by negligence can attract two. The disproportionate penalty is deliberate, as is the criminalisation, which is only permitted when the legislature finds that an act can cause ‘harm’ to the public. That, surely, cannot apply to divorce? The law is not only meant to cause families distress by imprisoning the man for words that the Supreme Court had dismissed as ineffectual anyway, but also aims at the dissolution of the relationship rather than its preservation. The amendments made by the cabinet, included in the ordinance, allow bail — another form of strain on the family — while the wife or a relative can file the complaint, not any passer-by — rather silly — and there is a possibility of reconciliation. Time’s winged chariot seems to be pursuing the BJP, for its haste cannot be explained otherwise. The party also appears eager to please its own constituents from the majority community, among whom many feel that Muslim women must be ‘rescued’. Too many birds with one stone to resist temptation.