Triple talaq is criminal offence
The Union Cabinet yesterday (Wednesday) cleared an ordinance that makes talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq, a criminal offence that will attract a maximum jail term of three years. President Ram Nath Kovind later in the day gave his assent.
The new law, however, incorporates safeguards, including a provision for bail to an accused before the start of the trial.
While instant triple talaq will continue to be a “non-bailable” offence — the police cannot grant bail at the police station — the accused can approach a magistrate for bail even before trial.
“There was an overpowering urgency and a compelling necessity to bring the ordinance as the practice continued unabated despite the Supreme Court’s order last year,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.
He said 201 cases had been reported from across the country after the Supreme Court banned triple talaq in August 2017. Since January 2017, 430 cases had been reported until September 13 this year. “What is important is that the practice of triple talaq continues in spite of the Supreme Court having annulled it and the Lok Sabha having passed a Bill that is pending in the Rajya Sabha. We have all the evidence and a series of papers in this regard,” Mr. Prasad said.
The Law Minister attacked the Congress, saying it was not supporting the Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha because of “vote bank pressures.” He also appealed to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to support it in the next Parliament session.
The Congress hit back at the government, alleging that “an unnerved BJP cornered over incidents of gruesome rapes” and lack of security for women was seeking to divert the political agenda.
“While punishing the husband, all the women’s groups have asked an obvious question: ‘Once husband is in jail, who will pay maintenance and/or subsistence allowance to the woman and children?” observed Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
“As raised by the Congress party as also various groups, why should the woman and children not have a right to proceed against the estate i.e. movable and immovable property of the husband? Modi Govt has deliberately not made any such provision,” he alleged.
Earlier, Mr. Prasad told reporters that a magistrate could exercise discretion to grant bail “after hearing the wife”. The magistrate would also have power to decide the quantum of compensation and subsistence allowance for the victim and her minor children.
Another safeguard that had been added is that the police can lodge an FIR (first information report) only if the complaint is filed by the wife (victim), her blood relations or her relatives by virtue of her marriage. Non-relatives or neighbours cannot lodge a complaint under the proposed law.
The offence of instant triple talaq has also been “compoundable” or a provision that allows the wife to withdraw a complaint or approach the magistrate for a dispute settlement.