A bill that proposes to make the "triple talaq" a criminal offence has been cleared by the union cabinet and the government hopes to get parliament clearance for it during the short winter session that began Friday. In August, the Supreme Court said in a landmark ruling that the practice of Muslim men uttering "talaq" three times for an instant divorce is unconstitutional.
Judges agreed with Muslim women that "triple talaq", often delivered by their husbands over Skype or WhatsApp, violates their right to equality and leaves them destitute. Despite the court's order, however, "triple talaq" still continues to be practiced, the government has said.
The proposed bill, called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, is a "priority agenda" for the government, people familiar with the matter said. Home Minister Rajnath Singh led a group of ministers to draft the bill.
The government's seeking of a ban against "triple talaq" because it is derogatory and discriminatory against women has created an unlikely coalition between Muslim women and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration as they took on Muslim groups which say the state has no right to interfere in religious matters.
Many Muslim countries have banned "triple talaq", including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The West Bengal subcommittee of the Muslim Personal Law Board met in Kolkata yesterday and has said that the proposed bill has been drafted without consulting any Islamic scholars and amounts to an interference in the personal law of the community. The members have urged the government to initiate consultations saying it would otherwise be a "handicapped" bill that would create discord.
Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool Congress, who count on Muslim voters, have argued against a ban, and said reform should be encouraged from within the community and not imposed on it. However, they have endorsed the Supreme Court verdict.
Many Muslim countries have banned "triple talaq", including Pakistan and conservative Saudi Arabia. It survived in India because religious communities are allowed to apply their own laws in personal matters such as marriage, divorce and property inheritance.