The fate of landmark Triple Talaq Bill continued to hang in a balance on the penultimate day of the Winter Session of Parliament today, with the Rajya Sabha witnessing a rancorous debate between the government and the opposition over whether to refer it to a Select Committee.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contended the resolutions moved by the opposition to send the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill to a Select Committee were not according to the rules.
The Congress suggested that the face-off could be resolved if the government agreed to make provisions for providing financial aid to Muslim women divorced through instant triple talaq, and their families, after their husbands were sent to jail.
The bill, which has divided the political class and drawn criticism from several Muslim bodies, was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 28.
Congress member Anand Sharma and TMC's Sukhendu Sekhar Roy wanted their resolutions for referring the bill to a Select Committee, which they had moved yesterday, to be taken up before any other listed business.
Speaking in unison, almost the entire opposition, particularly the Congress, TMC and the Samajwadi Party insisted on the bill and the related resolutions for referring it to a Select Committee to be taken up first. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), an ally of the ruling NDA, had also backed the opposition demand.
The TMC's Derek O' Brien wanted a vote on the resolutions.
"...Where we stopped, we should continue.... Yesterday, we were all set to go for a division. Any further legislative business cannot be taken up unless that (the nill) is disposed of," he said.
Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said he cannot take up the bill which was not listed in the business for today. He, however, ruled that their resolutions/amendments stood accepted.
Jaitley, the Leader of the House, however, contested it, saying the two amendments were invalid as 24-hour notice was not given by the two MPs. He also said the composition of the Select Committee proposed by the opposition did not reflect the "character" of the House.
"Both the resolutions moved do not reflect the character of the House. Any (proposed) committee which is giving one sided view is not a valid resolution. A select committee is to work on the resolution and return it to the House," he said, adding the panel should have representation of various parties proportionate to their strength in the House.
Kurien said though there was a rule for giving a notice 24 hours before moving a resolution, the Chair can waive it.
As the rival sides put forth their arguments during the cacophony, with members on their feet and many in ailes, Jaitley, said, "If you want to sabotage the bill, you will automatically disqualify to be the member of the Select Committee."
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad suggested that the government should include a provision in the bill that it would take care of the financial needs of divorced Muslim women and their children.
"We are in favour of the bill but we are opposed to the provision of imprisonment of the husbands. Who will take care of the family? Who is going to take care of the expenses of children... Government is not worried about that. Let the government say it will take care. We will accept if the government bears the expenses of the family till the husbands are imprisoned," he said and urged the government to accept the suggestion.
With rival sides ceding no ground to each other, and the uproar continuing unabated, Kurien adjourned the House for the day. Tomorrow (January 5) is the last day of the Winter Session.
On December 28, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. The legislation, which has to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha, criminalises instant divorce with three years of imprisonment for Muslim husbands.
There is a provision for a subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily needs of the wife and the dependent children. The wife will also be entitled to the custody of minor children. The practice of instant divorce is not followed in major Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.