Triple talaq bill: Still a trump card?

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]midst much ruckus, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has introduced the revised the ‘triple talaq’ bill in the Lok Sabha and the Opposition parties, as expected, have pressed for it to be referred to a select committee to further examine controversial provisions. The most objectionable part of the bill is criminalisation of triple talaq, providing for imprisonment of the offenders for three years. Those who oppose the bill argue that this will only lead to denial of benefits to the divorced wife as the husband sent to jail loses his earning capacity.

It is obvious that the government has more than the welfare of Muslim women in mind. Of course, welfare by itself is a laudable objective. But it also wants to make some political capital that will come handy during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In any case, the ruling alliance does not enjoy the required majority in the Upper House to get the bill passed by Parliament. So basically it amounts to posturing. The triple talaq issue had played a big part in creating goodwill for BJP in the 2014 elections and the party is aiming for a repeat performance. The hurry in presenting the bill is to state its own position as well as to show who stands on whose side. But it is doubtful if it would work out as easily as in 2014.

By retaining the criminalisation provision, the government has given the opponents an exit route. The Opposition parties, including Congress, have gleefully accepted it. While they welcome the idea of ending the obnoxious practice, which has been done away with in most progressive Islamic countries, the provision of imprisonment has given them a ground to oppose the bill and dare to be seen doing so. There is a genuine fear even among the affected communities that jailing of offenders will lead to denial of financial benefits to the victims. The government, however, insists that the magistrate can go into all issues and decide whether to grant bail.

Probably a more practical solution would be to make talaq an impossible option for wayward husbands by placing a huge financial burden as deterrent, which cannot be overcome by the willingness to go jail. There may be desperate husbands who don’t mind going to jail for three years if that will free them from the financial obligation, especially men leading a miserable life not just due to family discord, but also because of their poor life situations. The plight of the victims, including children, in such eventuality will be most pathetic and, therefore, it must be averted by all means. As it happens with other communities, divorce must be made unaffordable for men, so that they will think 10 times before embarking on such misadventure.