With ally JD(U) having made its opposition clear and many friendly parties still sitting on the fence, the NDA government appears to have removed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019, commonly known as the triple talaq Bill, from its priority list.
On Friday, when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi announced the List of Business on its agenda for the coming days, the triple talaq Bill — the first to be introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha by the BJP-led government amidst acrimonious scenes — was among the 17 Bills that are set to be introduced, debated and passed in the five working days that are left in this session.
Though there was indication that there could be an extension of the session, which is scheduled to end on July 26, there is no official information yet.
According to top sources in the government, the Bill is not on its “top priority list” now as the government wants to ensure required support for the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
There is already an ordinance in place which will lapse if the Bill does not get passed by both Houses and gets the President’s assent within this session. The proposed legislation, which seeks to criminalise instant triple talaq among Muslims, has been controversial ever since its inception following a SC judgement in 2017.
The Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha last month amidst Opposition protests but was not taken up for discussion and passage. While the government had won a vote in the Lok Sabha on whether it could be tabled and, given its majority in the House, the Bill will sail through the Lower House – it was introduced following a vote, with 186 members supporting and 74 opposing it — but it is in the Rajya Sabha where things may get slightly complicated.
“The government may choose to re-issue the ordinance if the uncertainty continues about it clearing the Upper House,” said a source.
Numbers in the Upper House are delicately poised – NDA, minus JD(U) and with the support of BJD, Independents and others, stands at 109 while the Opposition number stands at 108. The fate of the Bill will hinge on what position three parties take — JD(U) and TRS, with six seats each, and YSR Congress with two. In the 241-member Upper House, BJP has 78 members and the NDA has 115, while the Congress-led Opposition has 107 votes. Without AIADMK and JD(U), NDA’s strength will come down to below 100.
Taking off from the Supreme Court verdict of 2017, the law ministry had moved the triple talaq Bill immediately afterwards, making instantaneous triple talaq a criminal offence punishable with a three-year jail term. However, the Bill failed to get past a united Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. In 2018, when the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition had moved for a Select Committee reference but the House was adjourned before voting could take place after treasury benches trooped to the well and shouted slogans.
Sources in the ruling party said it is unlikely that the Bill will get cleared in the ongoing session. “The Bill is not on the agenda for consideration and passing in this session. It is unlikely that it will come up for passage in the ongoing session,” said a senior BJP leader.