In a big boost to the Narendra Modi government, the Parliament on Tuesday approved the bill that makes instant triple talaq a criminal offence. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019, was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 99 votes in favour and 84 opposing it, after over four and half hours of debate in the upper house.
The bill, passed by the parliament two years after the Supreme Court, in a landmark 3-2 verdict, had struck down instant triple talaq in August 2017. Three of the five judges on the Constitution Bench had called the practise un-Islamic and “arbitrary” and disagreed with the view that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice.
Here is what happened in the Rajya Sabha during proceedings
#Despite not having a majority in the upper house, the ruling government was able to garner enough votes in favour of the contentious bill. While fence-sitter BJD supported the legislation, JD(U) and AIADMK walked out, lowering the majority mark which normally stands at 121. The ruling NDA has 107 members in the 242-member Rajya Sabha. The NDA was also helped by the absence of some members of SP and BSP as well as those of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and YSR Congress.
The same strategy had helped the government push through the contentious amendment to the Right To Information (RTI) Act last week.
#Discussion on the bill lasted over four and half hours in the Upper House, with the Opposition raising objections on the criminality aspect of the bill. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad termed the bill as a politically motivated move to destroy Muslim families from within their households. MPs opposing the bill demanded that the criminality clause in the bill be removed and it be referred to select committee for scrutiny.
#The Rajya Sabha rejected the Opposition-sponsored motion to send the bill to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee with 100 votes against it as compared to 84 in favour.
#The absence of key leaders of the Opposition found favour with the NDA, which comfortably managed a majority in support of the bill. Oscar Fernandes and four other Congress MPs as also NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel were absent from the proceedings. Two Samajwadi Party MPs, Ram Jethmalani of the RJD, two Trinamool Congress MPs and one member of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were also not present.
#Opposing the bill, MPs raked up mob lynchings and the Gujarat riots, asking what has been done for the Muslim women victims in these cases. “Where was your love for Muslim women then,” Congress MP Digvijay Singh asked.
#Replying to the four-and-half-hour debate on the Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited jail provisions in the
legislations that ban dowry and multiple marriages by Hindu men to justify the three-year jail term for Muslim men
practices triple talaq. Taking a dig at the Congress, Prasad said the party could never achieve majority in the government after the 1986 Shah Bano case.
“I am a minister of Narendra Modi government and not Rajiv Gandhi government,” he said.
#The law minister said BJP may be getting fewer votes from the Muslim community but it considers them very much a part of the country and works on the principle of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’. He said his party gave the nation a President from the same community. Prasad said the bill should not be seen through a political prism as it is a matter of humanity, woman empowerment and gender equality. “More than 20 Islamic nations have regulated triple talaq,” he said.
#While discussing the Triple Talaq bill, BJP’s ally Shiv Sena expressed confidence in the ruling party in striking down Article 370, and 35A that gives special powers to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Advocating for uniform civil code, party MP Sanjay Raut congratulated the government for bringing the Triple Talaq Bill and strengthening the secular fabric of the country.
#The Triple Talaq bill was passed thrice by the Lok Sabha over the last 19 months. The Bill was again passed by Lok Sabha last week amid a walkout by several opposition parties including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress.
#Once granted assent by the President, the practice of Muslim men instantly divorcing their wives by uttering ‘talaq’ thrice will become a criminal offence, punishable by jail term of up to three years. The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 21 to the same effect.
#Hailing the passage of the triple talaq bill by Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that a historic wrong done to Muslim women has been corrected and an “archaic and medieval practice” confined to the dustbin of history. Home Minister Amit Shah described the passage of the bill as a great day for India’s democracy.