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The landmark triple talaq bill was tabled today in the Rajya Sabha, but the house was adjourned amid stormy sparring between the government and opposition and before it could vote on whether it should be sent to a parliamentary committee for review. A united Opposition faced-off with the Centre over the triple talaq bill, which was tabled in the Rajya Sabha today.
As Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 for discussion, pandemonium broke out in the Upper House. The government, which wants a debate on the bill and quickly ensure its clearance, was stymied by the uproar raised by members of the Opposition.
“Even after passage of triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha the practice is continuing, a woman in Moradabad was given instant talaq over dowry,” minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said to underline the urgency of approving the proposed legislation into law.
It was the ruling BJP that forced the house to be adjourned before a vote on the opposition’s resolution to send the bill to a select committee, which will mean that it will not get passed in the current winter session, that ends on Friday.
In the midst of this, Congress MP Anand Sharma moved a notice demanding the triple talaq bill be referred to a select committee for further consideration. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley hit out at the opposition for changing its stance on the triple talaq bill and accused them of trying to sabotage it.
“The whole country is watching that in the other house you supported the bill and in this house you are trying to derail the bill. Opposition shouldn’t join hands with ‘break India’ forces,” Jaitley said, which sparked an outcry from the opposition benches.
The finance minister cited the Supreme Court’s judgment setting aside the centuries old practice of triple talaq to justify the Centre’s objection to send the bill to a select committee.
The government has said it wants the bill passed in this session and has been pushing for a debate on the bill in the upper house to “expose the double standards of the Congress,” before an inevitable surrender on account of the opposition’s superior numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The bill, which makes the instant triple talaq a criminal offence and recommends a three-year jail term for Muslim men who divorce their wives by saying talaq thrice, sailed through last week in the Lok Sabha, where the government has a big majority. The BJP has pointed out that the Congress had not opposed the bill in the Lok Sabha.
“Incidents of triple talaq are still happening. The Congress is not ready for a discussion. It wants to keep the bill pending. The double standard of the Congress has been revealed. It is a matter of deep regret,” said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, stressing that passing the triple talaq bill “is a matter of women’s dignity.”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said passing the triple talaq bill “is a matter of women’s dignity”.
The Congress insisted today that its proposal to move the bill to the select committee be taken up immediately after the bill was tabled, a demand challenged by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who said the party “was breaking all conventions.”
“Parliament can’t be a rubber stamp,” said the Congress’s Anand Sharma, defending his party’s move. The Congress was backed by the Left and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. It also has the support on this of parties like the AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal, which usually help the government pass bills in the upper house.
Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal debunked Jaitley’s claim, pointing out that the BJP leader was quoting from the minority judgment penned by former CJI J S Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer. Triple talaq was declared unconstitutional by 3:2 majority.
“He (Arun Jaitley) referred to judgement of SC, I want to correct the record because I appeared in the case on behalf of Muslim Personal Law Board. What he said was in context of the minority judgement,” Sibal told deputy chairman PJ Kurien, who was presiding over the proceedings.
Attempting to quash the opposition’s strategy to stall the bill, Jaitley said that the motion to send the bill for perusal to a select committee had not been submitted 24 hours in advance, as is the procedure in the Rajya Sabha.
At this, Anand Sharma said members of the opposition had met with RS chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to discuss the proposed motion and he had given his say-so. He asserted that it is their constitutional duty to ensure that any bill undergoes legislative scrutiny before it is passed as law.
Even the government’s own allies like the Shiv Sena and TDP have asked for the bill to be sent to a select committee.
The Congress had last week repeatedly urged the government to refer the bill to a standing committee for review when it came up in the Lok Sabha. It has been careful to underline that it strongly backs any move to abolish the triple talaq, but wants provisions to be strengthened to effectively safeguard the interests of women.
The Congress and other parties have opposed the provision for a three-year jail term in the bill arguing that if a man who abandons his family goes to jail, he will not be able to provide for them. There are also concerns that if the law is passed, it would give anyone the right to complain to the police about the triple talaq to register a case and arrest the man.
Deputy chairman P J Kurien was forced to adjourn the House for the day as heated exchanges between the ruling BJP and the opposition showed no signs of abating.
The government has to depend on the opposition and other non-NDA parties in the Rajya Sabha for passage of its bills as it does not have a majority in the House, unlike the Lok Sabha where it enjoys strong support.
The contentious triple talaq bill, if enacted, will make triple talaq a criminal offense. It proposes a three-year jail term for a Muslim man who divorces his wife in any form of spoken, written or by electronic means such as email, SMS, and WhatsApp.
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