The Congress on Thursday alleged that the Centre got the triple talaq bill passed in the Lok Sabha in haste keeping in mind the upcoming 2019 General Elections, PTI reported. The party said the provisions of the bill were against the Constitution and fundamental rights.

The Lower House on Thursday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018. The motion for the bill was adopted with 238 votes for and 12 against it. Both the Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam walked out of the Lower House before voting began.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the National Democratic Alliance government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party had ignored the demand for sending the proposed legislation to a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament. “At least the views of stakeholders need to be taken into account and an opportunity should be given to them,” Kharge told PTI. “The bill should have been sent to the joint select committee, before its passage.”

Kharge also asked why the government was criminalising a civil offence.

The bill seeks to make the practice of triple talaq – which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives by uttering the word “talaq” three times in spoken or written forms, or via electronic communication – a penal offence. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 to replace an ordinance issued in September. The new Bill will replace an earlier draft legislation that was passed by the Lok Sabha but is pending in the Upper House, because of protests by the Opposition. The government had to make a few changes to the law, including the introduction of a provision of bail for men accused of practising triple talaq, to make it more acceptable.

Activists criticise Centre, call it a ‘political move’

Several women activists criticised the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha, calling it a “political move” by the Centre to polarise the country before the General Elections. “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?” All India Progressive Women’s Association member Kavita Krishnan told PTI.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat also reiterated that the bill criminalises what is essentially a civil matter. “The bill is a masquerade by the Modi government to conceal the reality that it’s agenda is not the protection of the rights of Muslim women but the promotion of its sectarian anti minority policies,” Karat said.

She also pointed out that the bill has no provision for the protection of woman’s rights for residence and maintenance after divorce, and instead gives the rights to a magistrate.

National Federation of Indian Women’s general secretary Annie Raja termed the bill a “fraud”.

Activist Shabnam Hashmi also accused the government of trying to polarise the country. “We had sought that this bill be sent to a select committee for wider consultation,” Hashmi said. “This has a political agenda. The Modi government has nothing to do with the welfare of women, be it Hindu, Muslim or women of any other faith. Modi is trying to be a Messiah for Muslim women, which he is not. Muslim women have much more graver problems than this and those are not being addressed.”