By criminalising instant triple talaq, the government risks squandering the gains from outlawing this patently unjust practice. What is unconstitutional is not necessarily a crime. Suicide was decriminalised when the state realised the futility of penalising those attempting it. In contrast adultery, defamation, homosexuality still remain criminal offences – a situation that cries out for change if we are to move away from mai baap sarkar. The fetish for legislating on all aspects of human life contrasts starkly with government’s inability to scale up administration – a deadly combination that makes for poor governance.
There are personal matters like love, marriage, divorce, child custody and alimony where the state cannot enforce ethical or social mores; it is better off playing mediator through civil law and courts unless there is violence or intimidation. Many triple talaq incidents were reported after the Supreme Court judgment but this reveals a larger problem of stickiness of socio-religious practices. Sending husbands to jail can create perverse incentives for simply abandoning wives. Neither will wives and families be better off with the husband/ father in jail.
There are potential remedies in civil law that could have been explored like imposing a hefty alimony on such husbands. But civil recourse may not be sexy enough if there is a political imperative of being tough on Muslims. What is desirable cannot always be achieved through legislation, far less through legislation that appears excessive. The government is undermining its own case for a Uniform Civil Code, which is certainly worth implementing and is based on the premise that matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance are civil issues. It appears that the weight of mai baap sarkar still sits heavily on India’s political and legislative imagination, and it’s getting worse instead of better.
Opinion Source : Times of India
Feature Image Credits: Olive Green Institute & Google Images