The triple Talaq Bill or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill that was cleared by the Lok Sabha in a single day has been stalled without getting an approval in the Rajya Sabha.
This circumstance is the consequence of the Centre’s attempt to form a legislation in a hurry without paying heed to the opinions of the states or consulting the parties concerned. Even though legal experts, human rights activists and even women activists have studied in depth about the dangerous provisions lying hidden in the specified Bill and the difficulties in implementing it and put forth their views, the Narendra Modi government has been obstinate by paying no heed to any of them. The triple talaq Bill in reality, has inflicted a severe political jolt to the Centre. That the NDA's allies AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam parties, despite their past support for even the communal agenda of the NDA, have strongly opposed the new legislation, amounts to a blow from an unexpected quarter. It was when the Congress and other Opposition parties - who had not made any effort at all for a concerted move in the Lok Sabha - handled the matter with utmost slackness that the Bill was passed without any difficulty. But when it was strongly opposed in the Rajya Sabha, that checked the malicious agenda of the Hindutwa government at least temporarily. However, instead of turning wiser from this setback to try for a consensus, the government was reluctant to accept the demand of the Opposition for sending the Bill to the Select Committee. Which leads to the inference that instead of taking a social legislation in its right spirit, the government has been adamant to push through its narrow-minded agenda at any cost.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the practice of divorce by uttering talaq thrice in a go was against the tenets of religion. But what has pushed the legislative process to this situation, is the failure of the Modi government in convincing the parties concerned, the Opposition parties or the human rights activists about the need for a legislation following the verdict. Even those who favour the new law are unable to approve of its current provisions, because of a criminal law creeping into a civil domain such as marriage. Associations such as ‘Bebak Collective’, which stands for the rights of women and works for a safe future of divorced women and ‘Majlis’ oppose the formation of a new law citing the discriminatory and unjust aspects in it. They argue that the bill is not at all acceptable given its harsh provisions of seeing Muslim men as criminals and sentencing them to three years imprisonment and fine, the moment they declare divorce following an abhorrent practice. They point out that no rights of a divorcee are protected through such provisions. Further, it creates a situation where the divorced woman is left in the lurch and her plight made more complicated. Even some of the coalition partners of NDA advocate deleting the provision of criminalizing divorce. The government stance that there is no question of referring the matter to a Select Committee, is a challenge to a democratic society. The overall evaluation is that what drives the government's obstinacy is not a foolproof legislation but a wrong mind-set intent on criminalizing a section of the population and on portraying their religious laws as cruel.
It would be a fair observation that when the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha, a responsible approach was not adopted by the Opposition. When a unilateral attempt was made for a piece of legislation affecting 15 % of the population, instead of parties coutnering it with a principle-based stand, only individuals without official party-level backing put forward objections. This made the path of the treasury bench to get the bill passed, easy. Only when the bill came up in the Rajya Sabha did even Congress the chief Opposition party, realize the need for a co-ordinated resistance. At the stage of such legislation, if the political parties do not do enough homework and take firm positions, democracy will become a farce leading to a situation where ill-advised agenda may run roughshod rule over the citizenry. It is incumbent on the ruling side to take the first step by respecting the thoughts and feelings of the citizens. Therefore, the Centre should shed its obduracy, refer the bill to a Select Committee, and display statesmanship by dropping those provisions which many quarters deem harmful. If the government is not prepared for that, it will become the obligation of the Opposition to defeat that move in Parliament.