In a letter written to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday, a Muslim body has demanded that the triple talaq or instant divorce should be made an offence under the Domestic Violence Act and should not be criminalised.
In its letter to Prasad, the Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD), an NGO, said it supported a legislation to declare instant triple talaq an illegal act, but "strongly opposes" any move by the government to criminalise the practice, punishable with three years in jail plus fine.
"The IMSD fully supports the need for a legislation dealing with abolition of triple talaq. It also recognises the need for penal provisions in the Act so that Muslim men realise that committing the illegality of triple talaq will henceforth have serious consequences. However, the IMSD is not convinced that the solution lies in a straight-forward, single-step criminalisation of the instant divorce practice," the letter read.
"Moreover, we are seriously concerned with the fact that the draft bill -- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act -- makes triple talaq a non-bailable offence punishable with a jail term of three years and fine. The IMSD is concerned with the serious implications of a single-step criminalisation of triple talaq for several reasons," it added.
The letter pointed out that since the socio-economic status of the majority of Muslims was low, the case expenses and the subsequent jail term if convicted would leave the erring husband finacially devastated.
"Also, the woman victim of triple talaq too must find money to hire a lawyer to press for her claims of maintenance, child custody, etc. Where will a husband in jail for three years find money to pay for the maintenance of his wife and children?" it said.
"For these reasons, the IMSD is of the view that all things considered, the proposed new law may simply provide that triple talaq, which is illegal, will be treated as 'domestic violence' as defined under the secular Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.
"Once the Domestic Violence Act kicks into place, it immediately opens up the possibility of various reliefs provided under the Act for a victim of triple talaq. These include protection against violence, right to residence in the marital home, maintenance, medical facility, compensation...," it said.
The letter stressed that the proposed law should declared triple talaq procedure as illegal and not talaq (divorce) per se.
The IMSD said that any legislation dealing with the issue of triple talaq should be comprehensive and lay down the entire correct procedure of pronouncing talaq in accordance with the Islamic law instead of only penalising the practice.