The government today tabled the landmark Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha for its passage, but the legislation couldn’t be taken up for discussion and voting due to the Congress-led opposition parties’ protest.
The Congress and other parties refused to relent and appeared adamant on their demand of referring the Bill to a Select Committee for detailed consideration. As a result, the Chair had to adjourn the business of the House till tomorrow.
As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tabled the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that seeks to criminalise instant divorce by uttering talaq thrice, Congress leader Anand Sharma moved a notice stating that the legislation be referred to a Select Committee.
Sharma even proposed names of committee members in the notices. The names proposed by him were: Renuka Choudhary (Congress), K Rahman Khan (Congress), Vivek Tankha (Congresss), Navaneetha Krishnan (AIADMK), Derek O' Brien (TMC), Javed Ahmad (Samajwadi Party), Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Majeed Memon (NCP), D Raja (CPI), Abdul Wahab (IUML), Prasanna Acharya (BJD), CM Ramesh (TDP), Misa Bharti (RJD), Sanjeev Kumar (JMM), KTS Tulsi (nominated) and one member from CPI(M).
Prasad objected the move saying the Congress was stalling the passage of the Bill and not understanding the urgency to enact the law that criminalises the practice of instant triple talaq and imposes a jail term of up to three years on the guilty husband.
Prasad said "the practice continues" even after the Triple Talaq Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and cited an alleged case of a woman in Moradabad who was divorced instantly over dowry. In Moradabad, a woman has filed a complaint against her husband and in-laws that she was given instant triple talaq by her husband because her family was not able to fulfil the demand of a Swift car or Rs 10 lakh cash as dowry.
"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," Prasad said.
Anand Sharma argued that the Bill had shortcomings and needed to be referred to a panel to clear them.
"The rule is very clear. If the member in charge moves the bill, it will be taken into consideration. I move the following motion that this House being strongly committed to women's rights wants to refer the bill to (a) Select Committee," Sharma, also a member of the Business Advisory Committee, said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also the Leader of the House, mounted a strong defence of the government saying the Bill had already been circulated two to three days in advance.
“The House is taken by surprise that a motion is suddenly moved, it has not been submitted a day before. The motion has to be give at least 24 hours in advance. 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,” Jaitley said.
Questioning the Congress’ intention behind sending the Bill to a Select Committee, Jaitley said, “Reason why it should not be referred (to Select Committee) is that when the practice was declared unconstitutional, 2 of the judges held it as unfair & used their extraordinary power to suspend it for 6 months, which expire on February 22. Judges said, 'we are now suspending it for 6 months & we beseech all parties, therefore within this period come out with apt legislation.' So, there is an urgency that country expects from Parliament. Legislature must act with sense of responsibility.”
Congress MP Kapil Sibal, who had represented the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in the Supreme Court, he said, “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.”
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. The Supreme Court had on August 22 scrapped the controversial practice, terming it ‘unconstitutional’.
Speaking to reporters outside the Parliament, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O' Brien termed the Triple Talaq Bill as a ‘faulty bill’. He demanded that all stakeholders must be consulted before formulation the legislation.
“We are all for this bill, it is a faulty bill. No womens' groups, stakeholders were consulted. All we ask for is that talk to all stakeholders,” he said.
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Prasad said that the government wanted a debate on the Bill and accused the Congress of maintain "double standards" in its stand on the matter.
“Even yesterday, triple talaq happened in Uttar Pradesh. Congress which supported the Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha, took a completely divergent view in Rajya Sabha. They supported it in Lok Sabha in compulsion since they were less in no. Let the country know Congress’ hypocrisy and double standard,” he told reporters outside the Parliament.
Jaitley too lambasted the Congress for not allowing the House to discuss the Bill.
“It is clear that the Congress Party is opposing the Triple Talaq Bill. The support they extended in Lok Sabha was a sham. Today was a golden moment for the House to end the injustice, but because of Congress it could not happen,” Jaitley said.