The truncated and delayed winter session ends tomorrow. If the bill is sent to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, it can now only be passed in the next session of Parliament - the panel will have to be constituted and then it will scrutinise the bill and suggested changes.
A united opposition faced off with the government in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, stalling a debate as it insisted that a resolution to send the bill to a select committee of the House be voted on. The Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Marriage Bill 2017, which seeks to make instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail as punishment, was passed last week by the Lok Sabha, where the government has a big majority.
The government has been pushing to pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha too in the session. But in the upper house it is in a minority and also doesn't have the support on this bill of friendly parties like the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal. Even ally Telugu Desam Party wants a select committee to review the provisions of the bill.
The chairman of the Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu and the leader of the house Arun Jaitley had met for over half an hour yesterday to find an end to the stalemate; the government has to move a resolution to send the bill to a select committee to end the deadlock.
As it tabled the bill on Wednesday, the government made a strong appeal to pass it to ensure the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives by saying talaq thrice is stopped. It has accused the Congress of hypocrisy for opposing the bill in the Rajya Sabha after not doing so in the Lok Sabha. The BJP wanted a debate in the upper house to "expose the double standards of the Congress," before an inevitable surrender on account of the opposition's superior numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress has charged the ruling party with "politics" over the issue, saying the bill's provisions need to be strengthened to really help Muslim women. "Parliament can't be a rubber stamp," said the Congress's Anand Sharma.
The Congress had last week repeatedly urged the government to refer the bill to a standing committee for review when it came up in the Lok Sabha. It has been careful to underline that it strongly backs any move to abolish the triple talaq, but wants provisions to be strengthened to effectively safeguard the interests of women.
The Congress and other parties have opposed the provision for a three-year jail term in the bill arguing that if a man who abandons his family goes to jail, he will not be able to provide for them. There are also concerns that if the law is passed, it would give anyone the right to complain to the police about the triple talaq to register a case and arrest the man.
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