[Meenakshi Lekhi with M Venkaiah Naidu, now India's Vice President, and Subhash Arya, Mayor of South Delhi Municipal Corporation in a file photo.]
New Delhi: Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and the party's spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi on Thursday said the Muslim women should not worry and fear anybody as long as "their brother" Narendra Modi is in power.
“I want to tell Muslim women, when you have a brother like Narendra Modi, you don’t need to be afraid. We stand with you in this fight,” Lekhi says in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Participating in a debate on the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill - popularly known as the Triple Talaq bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha later in the evening Thursday, Lekhi also demanded stern punishment for the clerics and religious leaders who are supporting triple talaq.
“Codify Muslim Law so there is no confusion on what is right or wrong,” she said adding there should be legal action against the "Mullahs and Maulavis" who are opposing the triple talaq bill, as was done when Sati was abolished.
Meenaskhi Lekhi further said that the laws of the Hindus and the Christians have been modified such that customary practices do not interfere with the rights of women.
The Lok Sabha passed the triple talaq bill, a development hailed by the government as “historic”, after a heated debate, and after the House rejected a string of amendments moved by various opposition members including those from Congress.
Earlier in the day the Modi government introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha despite opposition by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and other Muslim organisations, including those run by the women activists who led the campaign against instant talaq.
Participating in the debat, the Congress emphasised that it supports "any move to abolish the Triple Talaq," but has questioned the jail term provision asking how a man in prison will provide for the woman and children he has abandoned using the triple talaq. It also wants some other changes in the bill, stating today that it would prefer a review of the proposed legislation by a parliamentary panel.
Parliamentarians from RJD, AIMIM, BJD, AIADMK and Indian Union Muslim League opposed the bill, calling it arbitrary in nature and a faulty proposal.
The bill will now be sent to the Rajya Sabha for passage before it is forwarded to the President for signing it into law.
The bill is not likely to sail through the Rajya Sabha so easily as the government lacks majority in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, and the Congress which has supported the bill has done so with a demand to settle shortcomings.
According to the Congress sources, the main opposition party is likely to seek amendments to the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority and so the opposition's requests for changes are likely to be passed.
The bill will have to be sent to a parliamentary committee for review and is unlikely to be passed in the winter session. Both houses must clear the bill for it to become a law.
Under the draft bill, triple talaq in any form -- spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp -- would be bad or illegal and void.
The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or concurrent talaq and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking "subsistence allowance" for herself and minor children.
The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.
"The provision of subsistence allowance and custody has been made to ensure that in case the husband asks the wife to leave the house she should have legal protection," the functionary said.
According to the draft law, which would be applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of three years and a fine. It would be a non-bailable, cognisable offence.
The Supreme Court of India on August 22, 2017 while terming instant or triple talaq against the principles of Quran and Shariah invalidated the evil practice and asked the government to bring a legislation on it in the parliament.
The Supreme Court referred to the fact that several Islamic countries like Pakistan do not allow triple talaq; judges questioned why it should not be abolished in India.
Differences over practice of Triple Talaq exist in the Islamic Sharia since the tenure of second Caliph Omar (RA). Muslim scholars and jurists argue that concurrent talaq or triple talaq in one go has never been approved by Prphet Mohammad (peace be upon him), during the tenure of first Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) and the first two years of Caliph Omar's caliphate.
Caliph Omar later approved it as punishment, scholars argue, but later on the practice was annulled by Muslim jurists. It is on this basis, the practice of concurrent talaq has been termed invalid in most of the Muslim countries.
Muslims in India, majority of them followers of Hanafi school of thought, are adamant on the invalid concurrent talaq and are fighting a case with women activists in the Supreme Court.
Interestingly, some renowned Hanafi scholars have also ruled against concurrent or triple talaq. According to the sources in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the members fear that agreeing to any change on triple talaq would open floodgate of interference in other Sharia matters.
It is also learnt that there is a strong dissent among the members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMLB) and especially some women members are upset over board's handling of the situation.