Congress wants taxpayers to fund Muslim divorces – RS Prasad

Muslim women at a function in Uttar Pradesh

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today said he has had official talks with the Congress Party on the ‘triple talaq’ bill, but the opposition party has raised two demands that amount to incentivizing Muslim men to abandon their women.

The first demand, said RS Prasad, was to decriminalize the offence and make it bailable, and the second was for the government to pay sustenance to women who are victims of triple talaq.

RS Prasad said the combined effect of the two modifications will be to encourage, instead of discouraging, the practice of giving instant talaq or divorce.

The three-year jail term is meant as a ‘deterrence’, without which people will still continue with the practice. “They will think, what will happen? Anyway, I will get bail from the police station,” he said in an interview on Times Now newschannel.

The second suggestion, of the government paying maintenance to victims of triple talaq, will also have a similar impact, said Prasad, who is the law minister for India.

According to a Supreme Court judgment, the responsibility for paying maintenance to a Muslim divorcee fell upon her former husband.

In 1986, the Congress government brought in a new law that shifted this responsibility from the ex-husband to the women’s own relatives.

Now, said Prasad in an interview, the Congress Party wants to go one step further and get the government to foot the bill.

“The Congress Party denied maintenance to Shah Bano in 1986,” he said.

“If the government comes with a corpus fund, then basically you are incentivizing Triple Talaq. There, I’ve given you talaq, now go and ask the government for money,” he said.

It is not clear if the Congress wants the government to pay maintenance only in those cases where the ex-husband has been put in jail or in other cases as well. One of the oft-repeated criticisms of the bill has been that it asks a man to pay maintenance, but also puts him in prison.

Prasad said the talks were held with Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha.

The Congress Party has joined hands with other opposition parties to block the bill in the upper house after supporting the bill in Lok Sabha or the people’s house.

A marathon discussion on the subject did little to break the deadlock.

Critics of the bill also point out that it will punish Muslim men with three years imprisonment for abandoning their wives without going through proper channels, but no such law exists for Hindu or Christian men.

The government, on the other hand, feels that it needs put in place a provision for punishment as this is being done in the name of religion and cannot be stopped without making it a criminal offence.