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The Rajya Sabha was adjourned until 11 am on Friday, without any discussion on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 (or the triple talaq Bill as it is more commonly known) amid huge uproar in the Upper House, shortly after the bill was taken up discussion.
Now with just one more day remaining in the ongoing Winter Session, the fate of the controversial bill remains shrouded in suspense as the government virtually rejected an overwhelming demand from the Opposition for referring it to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for detailed consideration. The Opposition, on the other hand also refused to relent as Leader of Opposition and Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Bill was not fit to be passed as it as it would “finish off Muslim women” instead of “empowering them.”
Azad stood up to raise his objection soon after the matter was taken up for discussion. He said that the soul and intent of the bill are laudable, and no party is opposed to it. However, the clause criminalising talaq-e-biddat (or instant triple talaq) will “finish off Muslim women”, contrary to the government’s claim that it will empower them.
Azad said, “If the government plans to send their (Muslim women’s) husbands to jail, who will provide for them in the meantime, who will pay for their children’s upbringing… the government should then a make a clause to provide for those women as well in the absence of their husbands.”
He concluded his point by demanding that the suggestions moved by Anand Sharma, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, or Derek O’ Brian, which in essence demand that the bill be referred to a Select Committee, should be taken for consideration.
Jaitley stood up at this point and raised objections on technical grounds at the Opposition parties’ motion, which was moved and admitted on Wednesday. He said that the motion could not be admitted and should be held invalid because the rule states that a prior notice of at least 24 hours should be given.
To this Deputy Chairman of the House PJ Kurien responded in negative. He said, “The Leader of the House is a very learned advocate himself and all points raised by him are of relevance.” The rule he quotes that a prior notice should be given is also correct, he said. “However, the same rule adds that the Chairman of the House (Vice-President of India M Venkaiah Naidu) has the power to admit such a motion and which is why I cannot overrule it. It is now admitted and hence is the property of the House, only members can amend it,” Kurien said. He said that the bill will not be taken up until there is a consensus in the House.
Jaitley further expressed his displeasure at the composition of the Select Committee as suggested by the Opposition parties.
“The rule clearly states that any Standing or Select Committee should be formed so as to reflect the nature of this House. That is not the case here,” Jaitley said. He was apparently referring to the fact that the list of suggested members to comprise the committee did not include any MPs of the BJP.
All India Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Shekhar Roy chose to respond to this. He said that he had included members from all parties who were willing to send the bill to the Standing Committee. However, BJP members were not included because the government was not willing to send the bill to the committee. Roy added that if the BJP is interested in sending the Bill for further scrutiny, he has no objection to amending the list to include its members as well.
The government after this asked the Chair to take up the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017 instead of the triple talaq bill, which spurred a pandemonium in the House as Opposition insisted that the matter of sending the triple talaq bill to the Select Committee should be resolved first.
The bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, but then too, it did not see much debate or discussion as political parties indulged in a slugfest both inside and outside Parliament.
While the government wanted a debate on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition wanted it to be sent to a Select Committee for scrutiny before it is a made a law.
Following this, in an unprecedented move, it was the ruling BJP that forced an adjournment in the Rajya Sabha as the Opposition pressed for the triple talaq Bill to be sent to a Select Committee of the House for closer scrutiny.
Earlier on Tuesday too, a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha ended without a consensus on the issue as the government was keen that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 be adopted as passed last week by the Lok Sabha.
The government had insisted that the opposition should not press for amendments to the bill or to recommend its reference to a parliamentary committee.
However, the entire Opposition, including those friendly to the ruling BJP like TDP and AIADMK, demanded that the bill be referred to a Select Committee so that “lacunae” in the legislation could be rectified. The government had, however, insisted on bringing the bill to the House and take its sense before deciding about its final fate.
However, various reports suggest that owing to the lack of numbers and consensus in the Rajya Sabha the ruling party will be forced to send the bill to a Select Committee of the House. And it would only be taken up again in the Budget Session in 2018.
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