The passing of Triple Talaq law marks a dark day in Indian democracy. The eagerness with which we celebrate this historic murder of liberty and secularism is reminiscent of the scene from Star Wars where Padme remarks, “So this is how liberty (democracy?) dies, with thunderous applause”.
I must make it very clear at the begininning that I am no fan of the practice of Triple Talaq or the Muslim Personal Law. In fact, I am an ardent advocate of a minimalistic common civil code, that does not discriminate on the basis of religion. This ideal finds a place in BJP’s stated agenda and is one of the reasons why I support this party. This new law, however, stabs in the back of this doctrine.
Opposition to the practice of Triple Talaq whereby a woman is disowned by her husband by uttering a magic word three times is understandable. It is a medieval practice that is not compatible with present day conecpts of justice and fairness. Further, it discriminates on the basis of religion which goes against the secular spirit of the constitution. It is no wonder that the Supreme Court, on 22 Aug 2017, declared this practice as unconstitutional.
If the new law introduced by the government only declared divorce through Triple Talaq as void and not having any legal weight, it would have my full support. However, it goes way beyond and makes it a criminal offence that is punishable with imprisonment. The law states, “Whoever pronounces talaq referred to in section 3 upon his wife shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine.“
This is absolutely ridiculous. I wonder which other words, on repeating three times can get a person in jail for three years – anywhere in the world. If there is no legal sanction for Triple Talaq, talaq should be like every other word. Whether one says it or not should not make any difference to the government or have any real effect on the life of anyone. Here, the effect of uttering the word three times just got worse. From ending a marriage, this word has now been empowered to rob a man of his liberty that is guaranteed him by the constitution.
What is worse is that it is not just the word, but even its supposed and unproven utterance that can threaten a man’s liberty. The law further says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, an offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable within the meaning of the said Code.“
If a Muslim man so far enjoyed the power to end his marriage whenever he wished, this law gives a Muslim woman the power to throw her husband into jail on her whim. Since the offence is deemed cognizable, he can be arrested without a warrant and may even be denied bail. All for allegedly uttering an Arabic word three times.
In short, the Triple Talaq law precariously places the liberty of a married Muslim man at the mercy of his wife and of law enforcement agencies. In a country where laws are already heavily loaded against men, this law makes Muslim men even more vulnerable. If the practice of Triple Talaq is medieval and barbaric, we have just proven that an elected government in a modern democracy is capable of formulating equally or even more barbaric laws.