The BJP at the Centre has introduced a new law with the same haste as, or with even more recklessness than, the demonetisation decision.
It is the Muslim marriages and family life that is the focus this time. A Bill that includes complications capable of significantly impacting them has been introduced. The government in one go pushed through the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 tabled in the Lok Sabha by Union Minister of Law Ravi Shankar Prasad. Even its champions might not honestly believe that there are good intentions behind passing the Bill with an unjustifiable haste by rejecting all the amendments put forth by different parties. The Centre had asked the states and others to give their opinions on the law. The union cabinet all of a sudden approved the Bill much before the time frame given for letting know the suggestions and then got it passed it into law with the same swiftness using the brutal majority in the Lok Sabha. One cannot lose sight of the fact evinced by all this. If anyone deems that the style as well as the repercussions of this legislation introduced purportedly for Muslim women concerns only the Muslims, then they are mistaken. We are at present witnessing the inauguration of Sangh Parivar's journey towards the Uniform Civil Code and a Hindu nation. There is reason to believe that they intend to change even the Constitution if they had a majority in the Rajya Sabha as well. There have been indications that they are ready for that even without the majority. The BJP government has framed the new law by raising false claims. The government highlights the Supreme Court verdict in the triple talaq case in August. They claim that the court has directed to form a new law. In reality, this is contrary to what the court stated.
According to the majority verdict, personal law is an integral element of religious freedom guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution. Justice Kurien Joseph particularly stressed that the right approach was to adopt the correct method as specified by Islam in the case of divorce. Given that the court has outlawed triple talaq by ruling it as unconstitutional, experts point out that there was no need for a new law against the practice. The court verdict that triple talaq or ‘instant divorce’ is not legally enforceable, is law according to the Article 141 of the Constitution. The contradictions in the law introduced by the government now are also clear. The Bill is being handled as if triple talaq which the court had ruled unlawful, were to be in force. This means that this law approves a point which the court earlier ruled as having no legal validity. That is why it is considered a non-bailable offence. At the same time, Section 3 of the Bill states that any pronouncement of talaq shall be void and illegal. In that case, how can punishment be awarded in the name of divorce in a case where it has not occurred? How does the issue of maintenance post-divorce happen? It is clear that the Bill was hatched in a hurry without any regard for even the public law in the society, let alone the Muslim Personal Law.
The Bill will now come before the Rajya Sabha. Political parties like the Congress that do not have a clear stance would do well to study the matter thoroughly. The Muslim community and the community leadership that failed to display vigilance against mishandling of the religious laws must move ahead with cautiousness at least from now on. It is the time to create an awareness about the practical and rational approaches followed , in the case of marriage and divorce by Islam, which considers marriage as a civil agreement unlike other religions. Alongside, the law makers and the society should certainly recognize the pitfalls in the new law. In a country where violation of laws happen without let or hindrance including beating to death even those who raise the cattle for milk in the name of banning cow slaughter, not much research is required to assume the kind of violence and fakes that would occur citing triple talaq. If there is empathy towards persecuted womanhood, steps should be taken to eliminate child marriage, facilitate remarriage of widows and also totally eradicate violence towards women. The fact that even the Prime Minister deserting his wife is not a good precedent, should be openly admitted. Let the community leadership and the people including the lawmakers analyse the marriage and divorce laws in Islam as well as their misuse. The right approach is to withdraw the existing law that belittles the Constitution and even the Supreme Court verdict.