The Congress said it supports the triple talaq bill introduced in the Lok Sabha but wants it to be strengthened to safeguard the rights of divorced Muslim women so they live a life of dignity with adequate subsistence allowance.Earlier, the bill to make instant triple talaq illegal and void and awarding a jail term of up to three years to the husband, was introduced in the Lok Sabha amid protests by several opposition parties.Introducing the bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was a “historic day”.But before he introduced the legislation, several opposition parties opposed its introduction saying it was arbitrary in nature and a faulty proposal.Members from RJD, AIMIM, BJD, Indian Union Muslim League and AIADMK, who had given notice to oppose its introduction spoke against the measure. But members from the Congress and the Left, who were also opposing it from their benches, were not allowed to speak as they had not given notice. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was also seen opposing the bill.The TMC, which had opposed the draft bill earlier, was silent.Activists of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), offer sweets to each other as they celebrate the tabling of the Muslim women bill – ReutersWhile JPN Yadav of RJD questioned the proposed three-year jail term, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said Parliament lacks the legislative competence to pass the law as it violated fundamental rights.He said while the bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the government should also worry about nearly 20 lakh women of various religions who are abandoned by their husbands, “including our bhabhi from Gujarat”.Muslim League’s E T Mohammed Bashir said the proposed law was violative of personal laws and was a politically motivated move.B Mahtab (BJD) said while he would not talk about the merits of the bill, its framing was “faulty and “flawed”. He said if the proposed law makes the practice of instant triple talaq illegal and void, how can a person be jailed for pronouncing ‘talaq-e-biddat’.A Anwar Raja of the AIADMK opposed the bill.Maulana Rabe Hasani Nadvi, President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), General Secretary Wali Rahmani, Khalid Saifullaha Rahmani Assistant General Secretary, Fazlurrahman, Secretary and senior member Zafaryab Jjilani, AIMIM President Assaduddin Owaisi during a meeting on issue of Triple Talaq in Lucknow on Sunday – PTISoon after the introduction of the bill was approved, Prasad wondered whether Parliament can remain silent if the fundamental rights of women were being trampled upon.He said the legislation was not aimed against any religion but was framed to provide a sense of justice, security and honour to women.He said the law was required as even after the Supreme Court had struck down the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ in August, it was continuing. He claimed that as recently as today, a woman in Rampur was given instant triple talaq by her husband for getting up late.Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some opposition members claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”It is a historic day. We are making history today,” Prasad said.The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be bad or illegal and void.According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except in Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of upto three years and a fine. It would be a cognisable, non-bailable offence.LAW WILL BE AN INTRUSION INTO PERSONAL LIVES: KURSHIDAlthough the Congress backed the bill and asked for a few changes, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, a former union law minister, struck a discordant note, insisting the proposed law will be an “intrusion” into the personal lives of individuals and bring divorce, a civil issue, into the realm of criminal law.Among other things, the ‘Muslim women Protection of Rights on Marriage’ Bill provides for a 3-year jail term to those found guilty of pronouncing instant triple talaq to their wives.Congress’s communications department incharge Randeep Surjewala said Parliament must ensure the protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances.He said the Congress was the first political party to welcome the Supreme Court verdict banning triple talaq, and had hailed it as a decisive step towards women empowerment and victory for the rights of muslim women.”The Congress has always believed that the issue of instant triple talaq ‘Talaq-e-biddat’ is about gender justice and gender equity. The Congress will support any and every law abolishing instant triple talaq.”The present bill needs to be strengthened to safeguard the rights of women to a life of dignity with adequate subsistence allowance. Parliament must ensure protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances,” he said.Khurshid, however, said,”It is an instrusion into the personal lives of individuals. Taking criminal law into the family, you have to be careful. To make divorce in any form a criminal matter is unacceptable anywhere in the world.” Khurshid, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said divorce or consequences of divorce, are areas of civil law and not criminal law, which comes in only when there is violence.”Criminal law is kept out of family as far as possible, which is a general policy everywhere. Why are we bringing criminal law into something which is a non-existing factor? Triple talaq is no institution or institutional fact of life, the Supreme Court has made it very clear,” he said.Surjewala said Section 5 of the bill merely states that Muslim women are entitled to subsistence allowance without defining subsistence allowance and explaining the method of calculating it.It also does not clarify whether the maintenance awarded to a Muslim woman under Sections 3 and 4 of ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986’ will be deducted from the proposed subsistence allowance or will it be in addition to that. He said there was no clarity on whether a divorced Muslim woman be entitled to one of the two.”Why should onus of proving instant triple talaq be on women? Like in every other law, the onus of proving the pronouncement of instant triple talaq would be on the victim.”Why can’t this law then envisage a presumption in favour of the woman, putting the onus of proof on the husband to establish that instant triple talaq was not pronounced by him,” he said.Surjewala said the bill should ensure payment of maintenance and/or subsistence allowance to women and children if the husband is in jail for 3 years, as evisaged under the proposed law.All Muslim women’s groups have asked an obvious question as to who will pay the maintenance and subsistence allowance once the husband is in jail, he said.The Congress leader also asked whether such a woman and her children would have the right to proceed against the estate–movable and immovable property of the husband, as the proposed law does not provide for it.”Where no such property exists or the property is owned by more than one stakeholder or is under mortgage/charge, does it mean that women and children would then have no maintenance?” he asked.Terming the bill as “very important” and “significant”, Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev said her party will work with the government to bolster the rights of muslim women.She said the Congress party will stand by any progressive legislation that adds to empowerment of women. “But the bill needs to be watertight when it comes to the financial security and dignity of women,” she said.Dev also wondered whether under the proposed law the burden of proof that instant triple talaq has been granted be on women and whether they be able to prove the charge before a magistrate.This bill is silent on how to arrive at a maintenance allowance, she said.
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