The bill to ban instant Triple Talaq is about gender justice, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday as he introduced it in the Lok Sabha for consideration and passing. The battle over the bill -- which provides for a jail term for Muslim men who can get an instant divorce by uttering "Talaq" thrice -- raged through the day as the opposition fought back inside the house and out. And the government was left red faced when ally Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United walked out of Lok Sabha during the debate, contending that the new law would create a "lack of trust in the society".
"Twenty Muslim countries in the world, including Pakistan and Malaysia, have banned the triple talaq. Why can't a secular India do it?" questioned Ravi Shankar Prasad in his introductory comment.
The ruling BJP has issued a whip to its lawmakers, asking them to be present in the lower house for the voting.
The opposition parties - who are against stringent provisions like the jail term for the husband -- wants the bill to be referred to a select committee and has repeatedly questioned the government's motive in rushing the bill.
"Criminality clause may be misused by police and government," K Suresh, the Chief Whip of Congress in Lok Sabha told news agency ANI. He also alleged that the government had kept the bill's introduction "a secret".
"Yesterday night they put in Triple Talaq Bill in today's agenda and postponed National Medical Commission Bill and DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill without knowledge of opposition. Why are they keeping it secret and putting in agenda at night?" he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The government contends that the bill is vital for promoting gender equity. Central ministers have gone public saying it is tied to the Prime Minister's new motto of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas".
"Don't look at this issue through political lenses. This is an issue of justice and humanity... an issue of women rights and empowerment... we can't abandon our Muslim sisters," Mr Prasad said today.
On Wednesday, the opposition, at a meeting chaired by Congress's Sonia Gandhi, decided to hold a planned boycott of the ongoing parliament session over the government's refusal to send some controversial bills for further scrutiny. The list is headed by the Triple Talaq bill.