triple talaq
The new bill criminalises instant divorce by Muslim men.Reuters

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019, tabled in the Lok Sabha by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday, aims to criminalise instant triple talaq. This is the first time that the bill on gender justice was introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha after the Modi-led BJP government came back to power.

The Opposition, however, remains unconvinced, vowing to oppose the contentious bill. A heated debate between the Centre and the Congress and its partners in the United Progressive Alliance was underway as the BJP government tried to defend the bill. Members of the Opposition termed the bill as politically motivated and against the Supreme Court rules. They said that the current bill would end up victimising Muslims.

Speaking to news agency ANI, K Suresh, Chief Whip of Congress in Lok Sabha said, "Criminality clause may be misused by police and government. So, we will strongly oppose the criminality clause. If the government sticks to that, we will ask for division."

The new bill criminalises instant divorce by Muslim men and seeks a three-year jail term. Meanwhile, the ruling BJP had issued a whip to its lawmakers, asking them to be present in the lower house for the voting. Introducing the Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Don't look at this issue through political lenses. This is an issue of justice and humanity... an issue of women rights and empowerment... we can't abandon our Muslim sisters."

This bill seeks to replace the ordinance passed by the earlier government in February after a similar bill could not be passed in the Upper House of the Parliament.

The bill was passed in Lok Sabha after four hours of debate in the 16th Lok Sabha. However, the bill did not get through the Rajya Sabha as the Narendra Modi-led BJP government and its allies did not have a majority in Rajya Sabha and the Opposition had disrupted proceedings over the Rafale deal. Thus, the bill had lapsed.