The draft law making triple talaq, or instant divorce, a criminal offence is likely to be taken up in the next session of parliament as parties in the Rajya Sabha failed to reach an agreement over it, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said .
The centre could also bring in an ordinance, or emergency executive order, to enact the law.
“Triple Talaq Bill will not be taken up today because no consensus could be built around it,” Naidu, the Rajya Sabha chairman, said.
The move comes just a day after the cabinet signed off on changes to the triple talaq law, officially called Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, to dilute two contentious provisions in hopes that it could pass through the opposition-dominated upper house.
The first change allows only a woman, or a close relative, to file a police case against her husband for instant triple talaq, the Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives immediately by uttering the word “talaq” (divorce) thrice.
The second amendment allows her to drop the case if the husband comes around later and they arrive at a compromise.
A third amendment mandates that the magistrate can decide on releasing the husband on bail only after hearing the wife.
But the government hasn’t toned down the three year jail penalty for the husband or the provision that only empowers a magistrate, and not a local police officer, to release the accused on bail.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi , law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wondered whether the Congress, the BSP and the TMC would continue to oppose the bill even after insertion of the provision of bail. “Under the Dowry Act, Muslims and others go to jail… they are also jailed under the Domestic Violence Act… why oppose jail for triple talaq,” he said.
Urging UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, to support the bill, Prasad said that if Congress does not support the triple talaq bill, Gandhi should not talk of gender justice, dignity and equality.
Prasad also pointed out that in 2017, a total of 389 cases of instant triple talaq were reported. Between January and August last year, 229 cases were reported. “This shows that the bill is required even after the Supreme Court struck down triple talaq as illegal.” Even after the bill was introduced, 160 cases were reported.
The triple talaq bill was passed in the Lok Sabha last year, but remains pending in the Rajya Sabha amid Opposition’s reservations. The Supreme Court in 2017 had banned instant triple talaq, but activists and lawyers urged the government to implement a concrete law to lay down the punishment that would be handed to the offenders.
Under the triple talaq practice, a Muslim man can instantly divorce his wife by repeating the word “talaq” thrice.