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Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018

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January 02, 2019

Why in news?

The triple talaq bill was recently passed in the Lok Sabha and is to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

What is the Bill on?

  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was introduced and passed in Lok Sabha.
  • But the 2017 Bill was listed for withdrawal, due to lack of consensus in the Rajya Sabha.
  • So an Ordinance was passed in September 2018 for the interim period.
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 now replaces the ordinance.
  • The 2018 Bill underwent a near debate less passage in the Lok Sabha.
  • The government rejected the Opposition’s demand in the Rajya Sabha to send the Bill to a joint select committee for further scrutiny.
  • So there is again a standoff in the Rajya Sabha for its passage.

What are the key changes in 2018 Bill?

  • The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
  • Definition of talaq includes talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.
  • Offence and penalty - The Bill makes a declaration of talaq a cognizable offence.
  • It could attract up to 3 years imprisonment with a fine.
  • [A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without a warrant.]
  • The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by -
  1. the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or
  2. any person related to her by blood or marriage
  • Bail - The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused.
  • The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman.
  • The Magistrate has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
  • Compounding - The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman.
  • Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.
  • The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate. 
  • Allowance - The woman is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.
  • The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
  • Custody - The woman is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.

What are the concerns?

  • Contrary to the intent of the legislation, it would weaken the position of Muslim women.
  • The question over the need for law when the five-judge Supreme Court Bench had outlawed the practice remains unanswered.
  • The Bill stipulates a three-year prison sentence and a fine. It is unclear why a civil contract should carry a criminal penalty.
  • The original Bill stated that the offence would be non-bailable, which has been reduced to a bailable offence in the latest version.
  • The woman is entitled to receive from her husband a subsistence allowance for her and her dependent children.
  • Expecting a man, who is incarcerated for 3 years and with less chance to earn a livelihood, to pay allowance is illogical.

 

Source: PRS India, Business Standard

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