New Delhi: A united opposition on Wednesday had a face-off with the government over the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha and stalled debate on it insisting that it should be sent to a select panel, as the ruling BJP vigorously sought its expeditious passage to stop the unlawful practice.
Amid noisy scenes, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 for discussion and passage, but pandemonium broke out in the Upper House with the opposition creating an uproar and the BJP countering it vociferously.
The bill, which seeks to make instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband, was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 28. While the government emphasised the need to pass the bill on an urgent basis citing a Supreme Court judgement pronouncing triple talaq as unconstitutional, the opposition countered it, saying a select panel must take the views of various stakeholders.
While supporting the bill, the Opposition parties especially those from the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, insisted that it be referred to a select panel for further scrutiny.
As heated exchanges continued despite warnings and appeals, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House for the day, without giving any ruling on the validity of the opposition's motion on the select panel.
Terming it "a historic bill", Prasad said the Supreme Court on August 22 "called triple talaq as unconstitutional ... The judges appealed to Parliament to come out with the law.
However, the opposition remained adamant on its demand for setting up of a select committee, with Congress Deputy Leader Anand Sharma moving a resolution to this effect.
The Congress leader, along with Derek O'Brien (TMC), also insisted that the resolution on sending the bill to a select panel be put to the vote in the House and a division was sought.
Dubbing Sharma's motion to set up a select committee as "invalid", Leader of the House Arun Jaitley objected to the procedure followed by him, saying Rule 70 (sub-rule 2a) cited by Sharma was not applicable here because the bill did not originate from the Upper House. It originated in the Lok Sabha and was transmitted to the Rajya Sabha.
Hitting out at Congress, Jaitley said, "The whole country is watching that in the other House you supported the bill and here you are trying to derail it" and sought a ruling from the chair on this matter.