Ravi Shankar Prasad said humanity, not politics had dictated the governments stand on -Triple Talaq-
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who piloted the bill to make instant "Triple Talaq" a criminal offence through Lok Sabha on Wednesday, called the passage of the legislation to restore dignity of Muslim women a "historic day". Mr Prasad also countered the charge that politics, and not gender equality, had motivated the NDA government to push through the law that makes violation of a civil contract, a criminal law.
"If it is a crime to save Muslim women and our Muslim sisters, then we are ready to commit this crime 10 times," Mr Prasad said, wrapping up the debate in the Lok Sabha on the proposed law that stretched for well over four hours. "This is not about siyasat
(politics) but about insaniyat
(humanity)," he said.
One point that many speakers from the opposition including those who were supportive of the legislation was against criminalising what they said, was essentially a civil offence. There were also concerns that bringing the police into the picture by providing for the arrest of the man who tries to divorce his wife by uttering Talaq thrice, could lead the relationship to a point of no return.
Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, a former law minister, was one of them. He had argued that the proposed law was an intrusion into the personal lives of individuals, and would bring the civil issue of divorce into the realm of criminal law.
Mr Prasad said this wasn't the only law related to marriage where a jail term had been prescribed for the guilty. It is a crime to demand dowry under the penal code, he said, wondering why jail for men who violated the law in case of "Triple Talaq" was so problematic.
Under the proposed law, instant "Triple Talaq" in any form - spoken, writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp - would be illegal and void. The bill also provides for three year jail term for violations.
The Congress had supported the intention behind the bill but wanted a panel of lawmakers to study the proposal in detail to strengthen provisions in favour of Muslim women. The government interpreted the suggestion as a tactic to stall the law and asked the Congress to spell out its points, promising to respond to them.
India is one of the few countries where the practice of instant divorce has survived in law. In August, the Supreme Court ruled that the law which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word "talaq" - which means divorce in Arabic - three times was unconstitutional.
Mr Prasad said the government had been able to trace 100 cases of instant "Triple Talaq" even after the top court delivered its judgment, a figure that underscores the need for a law to deter people from violating the rights of Muslim women.
Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected accusations from some lawmakers including ADMK's A Anwhar Raajhaa, who called the bill an attempt to push "a communal agenda". Citing instances where the government and PM Modi had reached out, he cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarding one of the country's highest civilian award, Padma Shree, to a tea labourer in Assam, Karimul Haque who ferried patients on his "bike ambulance".
After Lok Sabha passed the bill later in the evening, Mr Prasad said the government was glad that the bill had been passed by the house with wide support from parties. The minister recalled how PM Modi's government had taken a firm stand on the issue when it was being heard by the Supreme Court and would continue to take a stand on it till the end.