Triple talaq is criminal and a jail term is justified: Arif M Khan

Neelu Vyas

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV’s Neelu Vyas, former union minister and Islamic reformer Arif Mohammad Khan speaks about the much talked about Triple Talaq Bill, which the government was keen on getting passed in the Parliament in the recently concluded Winter Session. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha but the Rajya Sabha is yet to pass it.

Khan calls the practice of triple talaq or instant talaq, an evil practice which attacks the dignity of women. He also says the three-year jail term as proposed in the Bill for those who violate the law, as absolutely appropriate.

Khan blames the Opposition, especially the Congress for the stalemate over the Bill. He says, the party wants to keep Muslim women enslaved.

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

Do you think triple talaq is a social reform or a political weapon?

It’s a question of human rights. The evil practice of triple talaq is a criminal act right from the pre-Islamic days. Even AIMPLB has admitted that triple talaq robs women of their dignity.

What about the conduct of the Opposition parties? They have different stances in Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

I have with me a press release issued by AIMPLB . They have said clearly that after the bill was passed in Lok Sabha, they went and met all the opposition parties. They have mentioned the names of leaders on January 2. AIMPLB says they have been assured that they will not allow the triple talaq bill in Rajya Sabha. AIMPLB is dictating these parties what line to take.

I was hoping after 1986 there would be some maturity shown by the political parties but I am sorry. I thought political convenience will not come in the way but this AIMPLB press release is a great disappointment. Kapil Sibal, Ahmad Patel, K Rahman Khan Anand Sharma were all present in the meeting. Look what they did in Rajya Sabha after being dictated by a vested interest group like AIMPLB.

Do you think all these Opposition parties are now afraid of the ground slipping beneath their feet when it comes to enjoying the support of the voters because Muslim women are looking up to the BJP?

To be under the influence of AIMPLB, shows opposition in a very bad light. They are working according to their whims and fancies. It is demeaning for the dignity of the House. If this had happened in some other democracy, it would have taken a serious turn. To me this raises many questions about the conduct of the Opposition.

Criminalising the triple talaq could be used as a ploy to jail more men…this is one criticism of the bill, how credible do you find this?

Right from day one this act has been a criminal act. Caliph Umar gave the first legal sanctity to this. He allowed it but awarded 40 lashes to the culprit. Awarding 40 lashes is not a civil matter. There were no jails in those times.

So is the BJP justified pushing for a three year jail term for the culprit?

Yes it’s completely justified. The more deterrent the provision is , more quickly will it stop the incidence of triple talaq. A woman is interested in saving a family, more than 100 divorces have happened even after the Supreme Court verdict. If you want to stop the criminal act there has to be a penal provision. Deterrence has to be introduced. This is not a civil law.

Do you think government should buy more time in converting this bill into a law…why should they send it to the Select Committee?

Did Congress refer the law in 1986 to the Select Committee. Select care is used to kill and delay matters. Opposition could have come up with amendments. Why have they not mentioned any one amendment?

What about the clause of subsistence allowance to the woman?

This bill is for a limited purpose and this is to enforce the judgement of the Supreme Court. It’s the moral duty of the ruling government to enforce the SC observation. Shamim Ara case of 2000 banned triple talaq , 2017 observation of SC has agreed with the Shamim Ara case. But additionally it has said, this is violating Article 14 of the constitution.

Some people feel that there is a gender divide in the Muslim community?

Women were not there to stick out their necks in 1986 to fight it out. Section 125 of the CRPC allows for a maintenance allowance but look what AIMPLB did. How can you say that Muslim men are not suppose to pay beyond the ‘Iddat’ period. They set aside the Shah Bano case. I don’t think there is a gender divide. Triple talaq in Islamic jurisprudence is a criminal act. Triple talaq cases were banned in 2002 but so many cases have come up after that. Opposition parties are being dictated by bodies like AIMPLB. In 1986 I brought a law to change the law of the Supreme Court judgement. But they are back to their conservative tricks.

BJP looks like a progressive party. Muslim women are rallying support for the BJP. Do you think its the right time for BJP to bring the bill?

Credit goes to so many Muslim women who are fighting on the ground that they have suffered. Number of Muslim men supporting this have risen phenomenally. The day this bill was passed in Lok Sabha I felt confident. But my hope was dashed to the ground. Political expediency is the only factor which is there on the minds of the opposition parties. Congress is the real culprit. They are responsible for the stalemate.

This is not a fight between BJP or Congress but a fight of the women who are trying to secure human rights. Congress wants to keep the Muslim women enslaved. I am hopeful that the bill will come in the Budget Session. I am confident about the Prime Minister’s intent. He is very keen on bringing justice to Muslim women.