President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday gave his assent to a legislation aimed at banning the "Triple Talaq", a controversial Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives instantly, a day after it was pushed through the Rajya Sabha amid a series of walkouts and abstensions. It will be deemed to have come into force from September 19, 2018.
The bill was passed with 99 votes in its favour and 84 against, despite the BJP lacking the required numbers in the upper house. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who tabled the bill, said, "This is a historic day. Both the Houses have given justice to Muslim women. This is the beginning of a transforming India."
The opposition parties had demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee for further deliberation and scrutiny. They objected to the bill providing for a three-year jail term to erring husbands, and claimed that the proposed law will be misused to victimise Muslims. However, several parties that seemed to oppose the legislation actually helped in its passage by either abstaining from the voting process or staging a walkout.
While the AIADMK and Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United walked out, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Mehbooba Mufti's Peoples Democratic Party abstained from voting -- thereby bringing down the majority mark. A number of opposition lawmakers also gave the vote a miss. The list of absentees included Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party, five lawmakers from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, four from Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, and one each from the Trinamool Congress, Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and MK Stalin's DMK.
After the bill was passed in Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that it was a victory for gender justice. "An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history! Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society. India rejoices today!" he tweeted.
Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later accused the Congress of being "pseudo-liberals", and hit out at the opposition party for prioritising the "fundamentalist" vote bank instead of ensure justice for women. "They raised weak arguments so that the fundamentalists amongst the Muslims are kept happy," he said. "It does not mind Muslim women being driven to destitution. After all, the fundamentalist vote bank is a higher priority (for them) than justice being conferred to the female gender."
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