Twenty-four hours after the Cabinet cleared amendments to The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 — popularly known as the triple talaq Bill — the government attempted to push through the Bill in Rajya Sabha on Friday, the last day of the monsoon session. However, it could not be taken up for consideration and passage because of lack of consensus among parties.
Sources said that Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and other Opposition leaders told Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu that no Bill can be taken up in Parliament without discussion and allocation of time by the Business Advisory Committee beforehand. Besides, it was pointed out that the sense of the House had to be taken for doing away with private members’ business on Friday afternoon.
Hours after the Bill was cleared by the Cabinet, the government listed it for consideration and passage, to the surprise of the Opposition. Opposition sources claimed the government also wanted to extend the session, but dropped the plan for lack of consensus.
In fact, the government had listed three Bills for consideration and passage, of which two — The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 and The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018 — were discussed and passed after private members’ business was over.
In the morning, TMC member Derek O’Brien raised the issue in the House through a point of order. He said that according to rules, precedents and conventions, “Friday afternoons, during Private Members’ Resolutions, legislative business will not be taken up after 2.30 pm. It is nothing new.” Asking the Chairman to take the sense of the House, he said, “Please consider taking up private members’ business only at 2.30 pm and not doing backdoor legislative business.”
To this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said it was agreed in the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) that legislative business would be taken up as the House was adjourned for a day as a mark of respect for late DMK leader Karunanidhi. However, O’Brien and Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said there was no such agreement in the BAC meeting. Goel alleged that the Opposition was creating a din in the House as they did not want the triple talaq Bill to be taken up for passage.
With the Congress adamant, the government dropped the plan to push through the triple talaq Bill. Finance Minister Piyush Goyal met Azad and Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma at Azad’s chamber and conveyed the government’s decision. Goyal also requested the Congress to allow passage of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Bill. While the Congress agreed, O’Brien walked out of the House after the Chairman announced that two Bills would be taken up after the private members’ business.
“On the day Karunanidhiji expired, I had called a meeting here after having a word with the Leader of Opposition, and in that meeting it was suggested that on Friday we will have legislative business rather than private members’ business. I have now decided that we will have private members’ business now, and after that we will have two Bills on which there is broad consensus. That is the understanding,” Naidu said.
The issue, however, triggered a war of words. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said Congress president Rahul Gandhi was responsible for the triple talaq Bill not getting parliamentary nod in the monsoon session. He said the Congress had supported the Bill in Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha due to its double standards. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also blamed the Congress.
“The true double standard of the Congress has been exposed today in Rajya Sabha. After the proposed amendments, no concern whatsoever was left unattended. Yet the Congress held it back,” Prasad said. “What is indeed tragic is that the Congress is least concerned about the issue of insaaf for the triple talaq victims and focussed solely on its vote bank.”
“Congress voted for the triple talaq Bill in Lok Sabha as it is but now it is objecting in Rajya Sabha. This is a textbook case of hypocrisy and double standard,” Prasad said after the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die.
The Congress hit back, with Sharma saying the government should have listed it on time. “They should have done their homework and built a consensus and brought it well ahead,” he told The Indian Express.