The stalling of the ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ officially called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in the Rajya Sabha on Friday after it was passed by the Lok Sabha last January is a setback to the Narendra Modi government which had been vociferously fighting for it to end the pernicious practice among Muslims which amounts to instant divorce. Since the NDA does not command a majority in the Upper House, it needed a consensus to emerge which eluded it in the face of the Congress’ bid to thwart the bill covertly by using the pretext of lack of time to study it. The bill, which is slated to give relief to oppressed Muslim women was being seen by them as light at the end of a tunnel. Now, these women will need to wait until the winter session for the law to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha and there is no knowing what stratagem the Opposition parties, principally the Congress, would resort to when it comes up again.
While the government can be faulted for having waited until the last day of the monsoon session to introduce the Bill, leaving very little time for debating it, it needs to be acknowledged that it did make last-minute efforts to accommodate the key concerns of the objectors. While the Opposition bid to scuttle the reform has to do with vote bank politics, the BJP hopes it would win over Muslim women to appreciate its stand. In the modified version now okayed by the government, the complaint can be filed only by the woman or her family. The woman can also drop charges if her husband is open to a compromise. The possibility of bail has been brought in; a judge can decide whether to grant bail after hearing the wife. As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad acknowledged, earlier even neighbours could file complaints and the couple had no chance to compromise. The proposed law also addresses “nikah halala”, which requires the divorced woman to marry someone else and consummate the marriage if she wants to remarry her husband. These are doubtlessly progressive steps which should have got support from all sections in the House.