Triple talaq bill put in cold storage for now
NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha was adjourned on Friday at the end of the winter session, ensuring the "triple talaq" bill is pushed to the budget session which begins later this month. The Congress and BJP had issued whips to all their MPs in the Rajya Sabha to be present in the house on Friday in the unlikely event that the bill was taken up. Though it was listed in the Rajya Sabha's agenda Friday, with a deadlock between the government and opposition continuing, it did not come up.
The government was prepared for such an eventuality, having failed to convince the opposition to help pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in the minority. A united opposition led by the Congress was steadfast in its demand that the bill, cleared by the Lok Sabha last week, be sent for review to a parliamentary committee.
The Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Marriage Bill 2017 seeks to make the instant "triple talaq" a criminal offence and proposes up to three years in jail as punishment for a Muslim man who divorces his wife by saying "talaq" thrice. The government has said that after the Supreme Court held the practice unconstitutional last year, the bill must be passed to ensure justice to Muslim women. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad urged MPs to pass the bill pointing out that despite the Supreme Court order, instant "triple talaqs" are happening every day.
The Congress and other parties - including BJP ally Telugu Desam Party and the AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal, called government-friendly parties because they regularly help it pass legislation in the Rajya Sabha - want further scrutiny of the bill by a select committee of the house, primarily voicing concern over the provision for a jail term. They have argued that if a man who abandons his family goes to jail, he will not be able to provide for them. They want the bill to include provisions for giving financial aid to Muslim women.
There are also concerns that if the law is passed, it could be misused as it gives anyone the right to complain to the police about the "triple talaq" to register a case and arrest a man.
The government is clear it will not cede to the opposition and send the bill to a panel. It accused the Congress of double standards and insisted that the bill is debated in the Rajya Sabha so that it can "expose the Congress' hypocrisy" for opposing it in the upper house after supporting it in the Lok Sabha, where it sailed through last week since the government has a significant majority.
The ruling BJP said any concerns on the bill could be raised on the floor of the house. "The Congress is indulging in diversionary tactics. They don't have any intentions of helping Muslim women. They are hiding behind the idea of a select committee. Congress must learn from history," minister Ananth Kumar said.
After attempts to bring other parties on board to evolve a consensus around the bill failed during the winter session, the BJP, sources said, hopes to try and bring them around between sessions. The budget session of parliament will begin in less than a month. See P5