Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 which was approved by both the houses of the parliament has received the assent of the president. The bill is now a law.

Features of the Bill

The Triple Talaq Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.

Definitions

The bill defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.

Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

Offence and penalty
  • The Bill makes the declaration of talaq a cognizable offence (one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without a warrant) attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine.
  • The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.
  • The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced) and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
Nikah Halala
  • The offence may be compounded (a procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings and settle the dispute) by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared).
  • The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.
  • The triple talaq bill provides scope for reconciliation without undergoing the process of nikah halala if the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings and settle the dispute.
  • Nikah halala refers to practice under which a divorced Muslim woman has to marry another man and consummate the marriage and get a divorce. Only then can she be eligible to remarry her former husband.
Allowance

A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and her dependent children and the amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.

Custody

A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared is entitled to seek custody of her minor children and the manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

Was a Separate Law Necessary?

The stated objective of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 was to bring Muslim women into the gamut of secular family laws, which are applicable to all other women from all religions in India. The act is said to be a far cry from such an objective.

Why the law is said to be a far cry from its objectives?
  • The Supreme Court had already declared the practice unconstitutional and had sought legislation from the parliament to in support of its judgment. The government could have added this as a section under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act rather than bringing out a separate law. A law was modelled to cater to a specific religion and is farfetched from being a secular law.
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 provides for punishment of the husband with imprisonment up to three years and a fine. This is a contradiction in itself. When the triple talaq had lost legal validity (by virtue of the SC verdict), how can you punish it?
  • The personal laws of all communities are civil matters. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 for the first time has laid out criminal provisions in matters of marriage and divorce.
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 also provides for subsistence allowance from the husband. But the bill failed to acknowledge that a jailed person may not be in a position to provide money.

Hence it is argued that existing laws which protect Hindu women and those from other communities in cases of domestic violence must have been utilised rather than a separate law. In case a husband insists on triple talaq by unlawful means, he could have been booked under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. A common gender-just law could be a solution, rather than separate religion-specific laws. A common gender-just law could also be a great thrust towards formulating Uniform Civil Code which has been strongly advocated by the government.

Topics: 

Latest E-Books

Comments