Govt rejects Opposition demand to refer it to a joint select committee.
New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the triple talaq bill which criminalises the practice of instant triple talaq, with the government rejecting a vociferious demand by the Opposition that the legislation be referred to a joint parliamentary select committee. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasised that the bill was not against any particular community, and therefore it should not be politicised.
As the Opposition members led by the Congress walked out of the Lower House after the government rejected their demand of sending the bill to the committee, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018 was passed after voting was was effected. Finally, it was passed with 245 votes in favour while 11 opposed the legislation. There were no abstentions. With the bill having passed muster in the Lower House due to the dominant strength of the treasury benches, it could face a tough road ahead as the legislation also has to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha, where the numbers are not in favour of the ruling BJP.
Piloting the bill, Mr Prasad said that there should be no politics over the bill, stressing that it was not against any particular community. “Don’t weigh the bill on the scales of politics. The bill is about humanity and justice,” he said, urging the legislators of different parties to speak in one voice to support the legislation.
The minister regretted that the Opposition parties were creating hurdles in its passage due to “votebank politics”. He said that the government had taken note of the various suggestions made by the Opposition benches while drafting the revised bill, therefore it could not be sent to the joint select committee of Parliament.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the bill was against the spirit of the Constitution and was in violation of several articles dealing with the rights of individuals.
Congress MP Sushmita Dev said that the real purpose of the bill was not to empower Muslim women but to “penalise” Muslim men. Demanding the bill be referred to a joint select committee of Parliament, Ms Dev said the criminalisation of triple talaq goes against the recent verdict of the Supreme Court.
AIADMK leader P. Venugopal, Treinamul Congress’ Sudip Bandhopadhyay, AIMIM’s Assaduddin Owaisi and NCP’s Supriya Sule also made similar demands.
The fresh bill will supersede an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and still pending in the Rajya Sabha. The bill to make the practice of instant triple talaq for Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 to replace an ordinance issued in September.
Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
Mr Prasad said the bill made the offence compoundable, meaning that the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise, and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out any possible misuse of the law. He said as many as 477 cases of triple talaq had been reported since January 2017 and cited a case where a professor gave talaq to his wife over WhatsApp.
Giving an interesting example of the reasons over which women face instant triple talaq, the law minister said that a muslim man gave talaq to his wife for attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally. He said that if the Lower House could unitedly pass a bill for capital punishment for the rape of girls below 12, then why not this legislation.
In view of the opposition by some parties in the Upper House, the government had then cleared some amendments, including introduction of a provision for bail, to make it more acceptable.
The Congress, AIADMK, Trinamul Congress and the RJD staged a walkout soon after Mr Prasad ended his reply. Several amendments moved by the Opposition were negated by a division that was insisted on by the Opposition members.
Defending the penal provisions in the bill, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was important to instil fear in the minds of those still practising triple talaq and rejected suggestions that it was against any religion.