Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar on Thursday questioned the credibility of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and asked who had chosen the organisation to represent the Muslim community in the country.
Akbar made the statement during a debate in Lok Sabha on The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which proposes to criminalise triple talaq, or the practice of divorcing by uttering the word “talaq” thrice.
“This slogan ‘Islam khatre mein hai’ [Islam is in danger] was used before independence to divide India and is now being used to divide society,” Akbar said. “Poison is being spread. You change the law easily when it comes to men, but you remember Allah when it comes to women?”
On Sunday, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board had accused the government of not consulting any stakeholders before drafting the bill. However, the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board supports the proposed legislation.
Earlier, the Congress said it was in favour of the bill and urged the government to refer it to the standing committee so its flaws can be rectified. “We can sit together and sort out in a time-bound manner,” said Leader of the party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had tabled The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, welcomed Kharge’s statement and said the government would listen to the Opposition party’s suggestions and incorporate them in the law. “I thank Kharge ji for supporting the government,” Prasad said.
As the discussion on the bill began, Sushmita Dev, the Congress MP from Silchar in Assam, asked the government whether it would create a corpus to provide maintenance to divorced women awaiting compensation.
While tabling the bill in the afternoon, Prasad said it was a historic day for India and a “significant step towards women’s empowerment, women’s respect and women’s rights”. The bill, he added, is about justice, equality and respect for women and not any religion or community.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said in the Lok Sabha that the bill violates fundamental rights and lacks “legal coherence”. Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said the bill was flawed and had many internal contradictions.
The Supreme Court had on August 22 struck down triple talaq, calling the Islamic practice unconstitutional and in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which provides for equality before the law. The verdict was opposed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which had said that it was “contrary to the protection guaranteed by the Constitution of India”.