The year gone by saw several landmark judgments from the Supreme Court. It would not be wrong to declare 2017 as the year of impeccable judgments. The year saw some intrepid judgments in the form of Right to Privacy and Triple Talaq. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was supposed to be an exemplar that croons the tunes of gender justice, gender equality and gender dignity. It all sounded so thoughtful and brave of a government to finally come out with a bill that talks about highlighting the grieves of the married Muslim women but the haste in drafting left it as a paradox.
The Bill intends to protect the rights of married Muslim women by neutralising the effect of instant divorce i.e. Talaq-e-biddat. In the Sections 3, 4 and 7 of the bill, it is mentioned that the “pronouncement” of talaq-e-biddat by the husband upon his wife in any form whatsoever “shall be void and illegal”, and whoever “pronounces” such a talaq “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine”, and the offence would be “cognizable and non-bailable”.
The government does a great job by rendering talaaq-e-biddat void in the bill and we stand with the government that works for the demolition of such a regressive law. But, in the same bill the drafters criminalize the nugatory pronouncement of the words. A law that criminalizes an act after conceding that it does not result in a crime would be a little too confusing for the general public, maybe it is for the bystanders in the Parliament too. And, thus the fierce debates around it cannot be questioned.
There are a couple of other glaring contradictions in the bill that put the credibility of the bill in jeopardy. Section 5 and Section 6 of the bill talk about maintenance of the wife and custody of the minor children. The issues that are discussed as post-divorce issues seem conflicting to be addressed when the talaaq is already rendered void.
The reluctance of the government to criminalize marital sex on the pretext of desertion of the families seems illegitimate when it offers the Muslim women desertion by throwing the husbands behind the bars who uttered the words that do not even hold any legal standing. These women majorly come from a very backward economic section of the society. The law would not come to aid but would only force them to not report it for the only fear of isolation.
The bill clearly negates the Supreme Court ruling by criminalizing it. Also, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this very law holds the potential to be misused by the disgruntled wives as the dowry law. The only evidence to hold true against the man, in this case, would be the words of the accuser. The law is supposed to protect the dignity of the Muslim women but on the face of it right now, it looks like a law that puts the Muslim men on the receiving end of injustice.