Three year jail for instant divorce

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday prescribed arrests and jail terms for offenders in a campaign to stamp out instant Muslim divorce, or “triple talaq”, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks to woo women voters of the South Asian nation’s minority community.
The Supreme Court in August last year outlawed the practice that had allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives by simply saying the word “talaq”, or “divorce” in Arabic, three times.
Cabinet approved a decree making the procedure a punishable offence, as the government had struggled to pass the law in the face of opposition in parliament, even though the practice persists, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
“The instance of triple talaq has continued unabated,” Prasad told a news briefing, adding that the government had recorded 201 such divorces after the Supreme Court struck down the law.
“In a secular country like India… gender justice was given the complete go-by.” The ordinance allows for the couple to reach a settlement if the wife wishes, Prasad said, but how much jail time it prescribed was not immediately clear.
The legislation stymied in parliament sought to make the practice a non-bailable offence, with up to three years in jail.
Prasad said there were instances of men divorcing their wives over the WhatsApp messaging app or for reasons such as their poor cooking.
“This should have been done many years ago, it is a positive development,” said Zakia Soman, one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court.
Some opposition parties want lesser sentence for the convicted, while others have said that to criminalise a social practice is wrong.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other institutions have opposed legislation, saying that once the Supreme Court struck down the practice, it should be left to the community to change their ways.
“This ‘triple talaq’ ordinance basically is to try and win over a segment in the Muslim community, to win the women’s vote among the minorities,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst at Jain University in Bengaluru.
The government’s executive order would allow Muslim women or immediate relatives to complain to the police, who could then arrest the husband if required, Prasad said, calling the issue one of gender justice and equality.
“This issue gives them a nice pretext to present the Muslim community in a poor light and themselves as defender of a retrograde practice,” he said.
R S Surjewala, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party, said that the next step would be to ensure Muslim women get alimony. “But the Modi government would not want that, they don’t want upliftment of Muslim women,” he said.
— Agencies