Vimarsha: Talk on ‘Why Triple Talaq should be made a Punishable Offence’, by Shri Arif Mohd. Khan
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The latest session of Vimarsha Talk was organised by the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) on July 19, 2019. Shri Arif Mohd. Khan, Former Union Cabinet Minister, put forth an informed argument on ‘Why Triple Talaq should be made a Punishable Offence’. In his introductory address, Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF welcomed the esteemed former Parliamentarian and Member of VIF Advisory Council. Shri Khan, a respected member of the Muslim community and well versed with Quran and Islamic philosophy, expressed his happiness in talking about this complex issue. The audience comprised of several diplomats, bureaucrats and members of the civil society.

Dr. Gupta stressed the relevance of the topic in his address. He mentioned that while Triple Talaq had been deemed unconstitutional by a five-member bench of the Hon. Supreme Court in 2017, its criminality in India still remains at the centre of public debate. The Government, following SC’s order, brought about a bill banning Triple Talaq in December 2017, which could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha. The Government consequently promulgated an ordinance banning it, in September 2018, and re-promulgated it in February 2019 that lapsed with the end of term of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Triple Talaq issue has seen heightened relevance now that the new Government introduced a fresh bill in the Lok Sabha in June, 2019. This bill declares Triple Talaq a punishable offence, and proposes a three year jail term for the husband seeking instant divorce through Triple Talaq. It is this jail punishment that remains the most controversial part of the bill.

Shri Khan began his speech on a lighter note by narrating an anecdote based on a personal experience. Although funny, the story poignantly stressed the trivialization of the serious concept of Talaq, which is doomed to continue in the absence of appropriate punitive measures. He further brought to notice several state High Courts’ judgements outlawing Triple Talaq over the years, in spite of which the practice still persists. Drawing an analogy with the abolishment of untouchability, he stressed that punitive action is imperative to bring about long-term behavioural change in people. Shri Khan further quoted the Muslim Personal Law Board’s affidavit in 2017 wherein according to Quran, Talaq-e-Bidat is considered to be a gunah and haraam, and hence prohibited. Recalling the Supreme Court judgement in 2017, he said the Personal Law Board had agreed that this position can only be salvaged through the means of legislation. In effect, this further validated the Government’s effort to bring about a legislation banning Triple Talaq.

Mr Khan further added that there was little merit in the arguments of the rival parties, and the Personal Law Board had agreed by the way of an additional affidavit, to start a social movement against persons resorting to Triple Talaq, also promising to amend the Nikahnama to accommodate these changes. This however was publically shunned shortly after under tremendous pressure. This, he stressed, amounts to clear contempt of Court. He relayed another anecdote where an acquaintance's son-in-law had divorced his wife through Triple Talaq. He said that police summons to the person, and the emotional trauma of the victim fell on deaf ears due to the lack of an actual punitive mechanism, and this highlights the perpetual distress under which Muslim women remain in, both before and during their marriage because Triple Talaq had not been made into a punishable offence.

Sh. Khan also bought to notice the letter he had written to the Prime Minister after hearing of this incident, appraising him of the deep psychological trauma that Triple Talaq causes to Muslim women. He appreciated the prompt action taken by the Prime Minister after their long, detailed meeting. He recalled being called in for consultation by the drafting officers in Law Ministry, after which the Lok Sabha bill came into existence. He further opined that those who argue against making Triple Talaq a punishable offence are unaware of the tenets of Islamic jurisprudence. He said that the law is not to punish Muslim men specifically, rather, it is to punish those who refuse to follow due procedure, and resort to something that is sinful and prohibited in religion. He stressed that it the mandate of the Government to ensure that judgements of the Hon. Supreme Court be respected in letter and spirit.

To explain the deterrence of the Bill making Triple Talaq a punishable offence, he recalled the earlier anecdote where the person who had divorced his wife decided to reconcile due to fear of a potential punishment once the ordinance was introduced. He further stressed on the importance of considering Triple Talaq as a criminal offence rather than a civil one by drawing upon the example of other Islamic countries where Triple Talaq is a punishable offence. Sh. Khan concluded by saying that making Triple Talaq a punishable offence would not only go a long way in upholding human rights, but also in upholding the dignity of Muslim women in India, by freeing and liberating them from having to face this ordeal in future.

The speech was followed by a questions and answers round when audience members further deliberated and contributed to the relevant discussion.

Event Date 
July 19, 2019

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