- Fresh bill to make triple talaq illegal introduced in Lok Sabha today
- Centre counters opposition's claim it is a "discriminatory" bill
- The bill is about "empowerment of women", says Ravi Shankar Prasad
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As discussion on the bill opened, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the government should bring a uniform law and not one that only targets Muslim men. "Men from other religions also desert their wives," Mr Tharoor said. "There is no procedural safeguards in the bill, refer it to a standing committee... it is a discriminatory bill. The bill does nothing to improve the status of Muslim women," he said.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the triple talaq bill is "about justice and empowerment of women". "The rights of Muslim women will be protected. The matter is not of community, religion or anything but women's security," he said.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi criticised the bill over a provision that jails the husband for three years, and questioned the government how it intends to provide maintenance for the woman. "It's a discriminatory bill and does not meet the objective it claims to meet," Mr Owaisi said.
Only 187 members were present to vote in the Lok Sabha and many absentees were from the treasury benches; 74 voted against the bill. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, which didn't want to be seen as opposing the bill, abstained from voting. Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSR Congress Party also abstained. Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has said the party will not back the "triple talaq" bill. Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal is not keen on supporting the bill.
With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month, the previous "triple talaq" bill had lapsed as it was pending in the Rajya Sabha. The bill, which provides for a three-year jail term for any Muslim man who divorces his wife instantly by uttering "talaq" thrice - was passed by the Lok Sabha in December last year.
But it failed to clear the Rajya Sabha test as the opposition parties who were in majority in the upper house, wanted it to be sent to a select committee of parliament for further vetting. The government rejected the demand.
With four of the six parliamentarians in Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party having joined the BJP on Thursday, the BJP's strength in the Rajya Sabha - where the NDA has only 102 members in the 245-seat house - will increase slightly.
Most opposition parties, including the Congress, were opposed to stringent provisions like jail term for the husband. They contended that a penal provision cannot be introduced in a domestic issue that's essentially civil in nature and that the bill, in its current form, would end up victimising the Muslims.
The government argued that the bill would stop victimisation of the women, and give them equal rights. The proposed law is based on gender equality and is part of the government's philosophy of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said last week.
In absence of legislation, the government had passed an executive order to make instant "triple talaq" illegal, which was renewed twice. The new bill is a copy of the ordinance in force. To address fears of misuse of the proposed law, the government had also introduced certain safeguards, such as adding a provision for bail for the accused during trial.