The Bill to make instant triple talaq a punishable offence hit a roadblock in Rajya Sabha Monday with a united Opposition
demanding that the draft law be first sent to a select committee for legislative scrutiny. The government pressed for a discussion after Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tabled the Bill but the Opposition, which has a larger presence in the Upper House, stood its ground and the stalemate over proceedings continued on the last day of the year.
Opposition parties, barring the AIADMK, made reference to a resolution to send the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, to a select committee. TMC member Derek O’Brien’s motion for reference of the Bill to a select committee did mention AIADMK member A Navaneethakrishnan as the first of 11 members of the committee. The government, on its part, accused the Congress of creating hurdles in the passage of the legislation which had cleared Lok Sabha last week.
When the House met in the afternoon, O’Brien referred to the resolution and asked Deputy Chairman Harivansh to give him a hearing. This was while the AIADMK continued to protest in the well of the House over the Cauvery water issue. “Fifteen Opposition parties including Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, DMK, JD(U), RJD, INLD together want that the Bill be sent to a select committee. Only the BJP wants this Bill to be passed. We also want this Bill to be passed. But we want that the Chair should take sense of the House,” O’Brien, who moved the resolution, said.
The resolution stated: “That the Bill to protect the rights of married Muslim women and to prohibit divorce by pronouncing talaq by their husbands and to provide matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, as passed by Lok Sabha, be referred to select committee of the Rajya Sabha” comprising 11 members including Congress member and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. It fixed a deadline to submit a report by the “last day of the first week of next session”.
A similar resolution was moved by other parties demanding that the Bill be sent first to the select committee. The combined Opposition minus the AIADMK has a strength of 115 in a House of 244, as per the Rajya Sabha website. The BJP on its own has 73 members. Ally JD(U), which doesn’t share the BJP view on the Bill, has six members.
Accusing the government of breaking tradition, Azad said, “The Bill is very crucial and requires further scrutiny.” He said more than half of the members belonging to several parties have demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee. “Since 1993, there has been a tradition of sending a Bill either to standing committee or select committee. This government bulldozes everything to get Bills passed while the Opposition has to fight every time,” he said.
Countering Opposition allegations, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the government was ready for a discussion on the issue. He accused the Congress of creating hurdles in the passage of the legislation. He said the Congress had already supported the Bill in Lok Sabha earlier. “The Congress and other parties are only playing politics on this issue… it is very important for ensuring the rights of married Muslim women,” he said.
Proceedings were adjourned for 15 minutes and when the House met again, Anand Sharma of the Congress said: “It is the government which is doing politics. Nobody is opposing the Bill. Let there be legislative scrutiny. The government is misleading people. If the Bill has been passed without legislative scrutiny in Lok Sabha, then it should not be passed here without referring to the select committee. Rajya Sabha is not a rubber stamp,” he said.
Responding to the Opposition, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “This Bill is very important. We want to discuss it here and are ready to listen to any suggestion. Even after bringing the ordinance, there have been incidents of triple talaq until yesterday. It is a question of gender equality… We want to discuss and pass the Bill. The legislation should not be delayed.”
As members continued to create a din, the Deputy Chairman adjourned the House until Wednesday. ENS adds from Patna: NDA partner JD(U), which heads the ruling coalition with the BJP in Bihar, said it would stick to its stand on the Bill in Rajya Sabha — it had abstained from voting on the Bill in Lok Sabha.
JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi said: “When Law Commission had sought opinion of political parties on triple talaq, we had made it clear that such an issue needs to be debated among the Muslim community. Though we are for reforms, it has to be within the ambit of sanction of social and religious heads.”
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said while the party was all for women empowerment, there was need for balance by taking into confidence religious heads of minorities. “We have not taken any fresh stand. We have taken this position when discussions had started on triple talaq,” he said.