NEW DELHI: The lower house of India’s parliament on Thursday approved a bill to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling that found the Muslim practice of instant divorce was unconstitutional.

The Congress and other main opposition parties walked out of the house in opposition to a three-year jail term for a husband who divorced in such a way, arguing that no other religion has such punishment for desertion. The bill also had no clarity on spousal support if men were jailed for an instant divorce, the opposition leaders said.

Mallikarjun Kharge, a Congress party leader, demanded that a parliamentary committee consider these provisions of the bill to reach a consensus on the issue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn’t have a majority in the upper house and will need some opposition support to make the bill a law.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that allowing Muslim men to divorce by “triple talaq” violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters. It includes allowing Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq”, the Arabic word for divorce, three times. The words don’t have to be said together but can be uttered at any time and in any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday that nearly 22 countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice and appealed to the opposition to approve the bill.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2018

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