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The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 — popularly known as the triple talaq Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha, was once again struggled to get the consensus among political parties. As a result Union Cabinet has approved certain amendments, including bail provisions for the accused before the trial.The use and status of triple talaq in India has been a subject of controversy and debate. Those questioning the practice have raised issues of justice, gender equality, human rights and secularism.

The debate has involved the Government of India and the Supreme Court of India, and is connected to the debate about a uniform civil code (Article 44) in India. On 22 August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court deemed instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddah) unconstitutional. Three of the five judges in the panel concurred that the practice of triple talaq is unconstitutional. The remaining two declared the practice to be constitutional while simultaneously asking the government to ban the practice by enacting a law.

What is Triple Talaq ?

Triple Talaq is a form of Islamic divorce which has been used by Muslims in India, especially adherents of Hanafi Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence. It allows any Muslim man to legally divorce his wife by stating the word talaq (the Arabic word for "divorce") three times in oral, written, or more recently, electronic form.

Key provisions of the 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: It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce. 

Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine.  (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)  The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by: (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.

The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused: The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared). 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: A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, 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: A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.