Civil society group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court in the triple talaq case, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and a number of ministries, urging them to retain the criminalisation provision in the triple talaq Bill while making it a bailable and compoundable offence, The Indian Express reported. The group sent them their version of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017.

The bill in its current form makes triple talaq – the practice by which Muslim men divorce their wives by saying talaq three times – a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in jail. It would also be a non-bailable and cognisable offence. But the group suggested that it should be made a cognisable offence only if the wife requests it.

Not everyone can afford to go to the courts, one of the group’s founders Noorjehan Safia Niaz said. The group’s draft of the bill also recognises arbitration mechanisms within the community’s structures, she added. It also holds liable any person such as the qazi or organisation that helps an accused violate the law, and suggests a three-year imprisonment for them.

“The Opposition and the government need to work together to bring about a law against triple talaq,” PTI quoted Zakia Soman, one of the organisation’s co-founders, as saying. “They cannot allow their political differences to stall a law. Muslim women have been denied legal protection for a long time because of abdication of the duty of the elected representatives.”

The bill will be taken up by the Rajya Sabha in the Budget Session, which begins on January 29.

Opposition’s demands

On August 22, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court had 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 Lok Sabha, where the BJP holds a majority, passed the bill on December 28, 2017.

But the ruling party failed to convince the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in minority, to budge from its stand to have the bill forwarded to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny. Opposition parties led by the Congress raised concerns over the jail term the bill proposes, questioning who would provide for the family if the husband was in prison. They want the legislation to include provisions for financial aid to Muslim women and suggested government aid, as well.