The contentious Triple Talaq Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday as the ruling BJP enjoyed majority in the lower House of the Parliament. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad termed the Bill historic.
Prasad spoke for over 19 minutes while desperately arguing the government’s case in favour of the Bill.
He said, “We are creating history… Today is the day of creating history. When the entire nation is watching us, our women (Muslim), sisters and daughters are watching us and wondering if they will get justice or not, then when the bill is passed you all will one day say that you too had voted for this Bill…I want to request the House that complaints and moaning will continue. Let’s be united once. Let’s speak in one voice for the reform, our daughters, the daughters of the Muslim community, equality and gender justice.”
Prasad’s passionate speech may have given the impression that the Centre’s Narendra Modi government indeed had thrown its weight behind the Triple Talaq Bill out of their concern for the victims of instant divorce within the Muslim community. However, not many noticed that the Union Law Minister had given away his government’s real intention within his speech, when he briefly talked about the allegations of forcing Uniform Civil Code on Muslims in India.
He said, “And they mentioned Common Civil Code. There’s no mention of Common Civil Code here as I made it clear right in the beginning. I made it abundantly clear that this Bill was only about Triple Talaq. And why Triple Talaq? That’s because the Supreme Court in its judgement clearly said that ‘we are only discussing talaq-e-biddat or Triple Talaq. We will consider other issues such as polygamy, Talaq-e-Halala separately later.”
This is where Prasad seems to have given away his government’s real motive on Triple Talaq, because what the minister desperately sought to attribute to the Supreme Court is, in fact, the real intention of his government. (You can watch what he said in the video below).
Cat is out of the bag
A five-judge Constitution bench, by a majority of 3:2 in which the then Chief Justice JS Khehar was in minority, had declared the practice of Triple Talaq illegal on 22 August.
While declaring the practice of Triple Talaq illegal, the bench had NOT said that they will ‘consider other issues such as polygamy, Talaq-e-Halala separately later’ as claimed by Prasad in the parliament on Thursday. In fact, the order did not even mention the words Talaq-e-Halala.
What the Supreme Court, in reality, said was that the Narendra Modi government’s chief legal officer, the Attorney General, had expressed his government’s intention to challenge the other practices of divorce as well at a later date even though they conformed with the teachings of Quran. Hence, rendering Muslim men with NO option to practice any sort of Islamic talaq.
The point 77 under Part A of the Supreme Court order had recounted ‘an interesting incident’ that occurred during the course of hearing on Triple Talaq.
The Attorney General, the Supreme Court judgement said, was ’emphatic that the other procedures available to Muslim men for obtaining divorce, such as, ‘talaq-e-ahsan’ and ‘talaq-e-hasan’ were also liable to be declared as unconstitutional,’ for the same reasons as have been expressed with reference to ‘talaq-e-biddat’(Triple Talaq).”
When Justice UU Lalit asked the Attorney General that setting aside all Islamic forms of talaq will render Muslim men remediless, the latter had replied in the affirmative adding that the central government will bring in a ‘legislation within no time, laying down grounds on which Muslim men could divorce their wives.’ So, the Modi government had expressed its desire to replace Islamic practices with government enacted legislation way back in August this year.
According to the Supreme Court judgement, the Attorney General also ‘contended, that the challenge to ‘talaq-e-ahsan’ and ‘talaq-e-hasan’ (by government of India) would follow immediately after this Court had rendered its pronouncement with reference to ‘talaq-e-biddat’.’
The wording of the Supreme Court judgement and the fact that it chose to include the episode involving the Attorney General’s submissions in its order also shows that the learned judges may have been apprehensive of the central government’s real intention behind Triple Talaq. This wouldn’t surprise anyone since the issue of Uniform Civil Code has been part of the BJP agenda for many years. The problem is their refusal to admit it.
The top court’s order had said, “We have referred to the incident, and considered the necessity to record it, because of the response of the learned Attorney General to a query raised by the Bench… We have accordingly recorded the above episode, because it has relevance to the outcome of the present matter.”
This gives credence to the fear amongst Muslims that the present government was in a hurry to pass Triple Talaq Bill to push its wider agenda of replacing Muslim laws with the Uniform Civil Code.
So, it seems that what Prasad said in the parliament on Thursday wasn’t a Freudian slip but a deliberate expression of intent on attacking other civil and conjugal rights of Muslims in India by the Modi government in time to come.