Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Opinion | Talaq jeopardy

The argument is over the criminalization of a civil violation and the provision of a three-year jail term

The practice of instant triple talaq, under which a Muslim man divorces his wife by uttering the word “talaq" thrice in one go, may not be rampant, but is too appalling for a secular democratic state to ignore. It is not just abrupt, but also irredeemably unilateral and arbitrary. In 2017, India’s apex court had deemed it both unconstitutional and un-Islamic, and left it to Parliament to explicitly outlaw the patriarchal practice. Last week, the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, which seeks to forbid it. However, its passage in the Rajya Sabha, where the Bharatiya Janata Party lacks a majority, remains doubtful.

The main objection raised by the Bill’s opponents is that it is still too harsh, though its first draft was revised to ensure that an unrelated person could not accuse someone of the offence, and bail could be granted by a magistrate. Today, the argument is over the criminalization of a civil violation and the provision of a three-year jail term. Now, it’s true that under-trials often languish even longer in lock-ups, but the question of whether the punishment is proportionate to the offence could still do with a real debate.

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