BJP, Congress trade barbs over passage of triple talaq bill in LS

New Delhi: The BJP and the Congress traded barbs on Thursday over the passage of the triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha, with the ruling party demanding its rival’s apology for “decades of injustice” towards Muslim women and the opposition party alleging that the legislation was passed in haste keeping in mind the 2019 polls.

Lok Sabha Thursday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, which criminalises the practice of instant triple talaq, with the government rejecting the contention that it was aimed at targeting a particular community.

The opposition, including the Congress, which had been demanding that the bill be referred to a ‘joint select committee’, staged a walkout when its demand was rejected by the government. Soon after the bill was passed in Lok Sabha, BJP president Amit Shah hailed it as a historic step to ensure equality and dignity of Muslim women, and demanded an apology from the Congress for “decades of injustice.”

In a series of tweets, Shah congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government for successfully passing the bill in Lok Sabha. “This is a historic step ensuring equality and dignity for the Muslim women. Congress and other parties must apologise for decades of injustice towards Muslim women,” he said.

The Congress accused the NDA government of getting the triple talaq bill passed in haste in the Lok Sabha keeping in mind the 2019 general elections and said its provisions were against the Constitution as well as fundamental rights.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge claimed the BJP was desperate to get the bill passed in Lok Sabha with political gains in mind in view of the impending polls. He also said stringent provisions like criminalisation of a civil offence were not there in any other law applicable to other religions as were there in the triple talaq bill.

“The triple talaq bill is against the Constitution. It is also against fundamental rights. They got the bill passed in haste in Lok Sabha as general elections are approaching,” he told PTI after the bill was passed in Lok Sabha. Kharge said the bill was similar to the one that was brought earlier by the government, which had not listened to the Congress’s demand for sending the proposed legislation to a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament.

Reacting to the passage of the bill, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that it will become a source of injustice against Muslim women. CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat said her party has opposed the bill as it criminalises an essentially civil matter.

“For no other community law, desertion is a ground for arrest. The bill is a masquerade by the Modi government to conceal the reality that its agenda is not the protection of the rights of Muslim women but the promotion of its sectarian anti-minority policies,” she said.

“I support the Supreme Court judgement for the end of arbitrary and instant triple talaq, but nowhere has the court given sanction for criminalisation,” she said. The Aam Aadmi Party accused the BJP of seeking to make political gains by posing itself as the champion of Muslim women’s cause.

Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said it is beyond comprehension why the BJP was “bent” on penal provision for triple talaq when the practice had already been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.

“The BJP is seeking political gains through this bill by posing itself as a champion of Muslim women’s cause. What about the large number of Hindu women who face rape, murder and dowry death across the country,” Singh told PTI.

The passage of the bill drew mixed reactions from Muslim bodies, with some terming it “very dangerous,” while others welcoming it. S Q R Ilayas, member of working committee of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said there was no need for this bill and it has been brought keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

“It is a very dangerous bill that will make a civil issue a criminal offence. Who will take care of the wives and children once the husband goes to jail?” he said. Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi, General Secretary of the All India Ulema Council, said when the Supreme Court has declared triple talaq unconstitutional, why is it even being discussed here.

However, Zakia Soman, member of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, welcomed the bill. The National Commission for Women also welcomed the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha. Reacting to the bill being passed by the Lower House, NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said she has seen the sufferings of the Muslim women due to absence of this legislation.

However, several women activists Thursday criticised the passage of the triple talaq bill, saying it was a “political move” aimed at polarising the country before the Lok Sabha polls. Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Kavita Krishnan, asked how the law can be different for different communities.

“Why such an offence (abandoning wives) when committed by a non-Muslim man is considered to be a civil offence and the same is being criminalised when committed by a Muslim man?” she asked. President, All Indian Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Malini Bhattacharya also termed the bill as politically motivated.