- Move comes day after cabinet signed off on changes to triple talaq law
- First change allows only a woman or close relative to file a case
- Centre hopes the tweaks would persuade non-NDA parties to back the bill
The government will make a renewed attempt today to nudge the Rajya Sabha to clear the draft law making instant triple talaq, or instant divorce, a criminal offence. But if the opposition does not play along, government sources told NDTV that it would bring in an ordinance, or emergency executive order to enact the law.
The move comes just a day after the cabinet signed off on changes to the triple talaq law, officially called Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, to dilute two contentious provisions.
The first change allows only a woman, or a close relative, to file a police case against her husband for instant triple talaq, the Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives immediately by uttering the word "talaq" (divorce) thrice.
The second amendment allows her to drop the case if the husband comes around later and they arrive at a compromise.
But the government hasn't toned down the three year jail penalty for the husband or the provision that only empowers a magistrate, and not a local police officer, to release the accused on bail.
A third amendment mandates that the magistrate can decide on releasing the husband on bail only after hearing the wife.
The original bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha last year but has been stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led national coalition NDA is in minority.
The government hopes that the tweaks cleared by the cabinet would persuade some non-NDA parties, which had genuine concerns about the misuse of the law, to support the bill in its new form.
The ruling BJP has already ordered all its lawmakers to be present in the Rajya Sabha in full strength, just in case.
It is not clear what the two big non-NDA parties, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK, think about the changes. Between them, the two parties have 22 lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha.
When Lok Sabha debated the bill last year, both had opposed the legislation. The BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab had called the framing of the bill "faulty" and "flawed" and insisted that it would be doing disservice to Muslim women. The AIADMK also wanted the centre to remove the provision of three years jail for husbands.
Neither of them voted against the bill but abstained from voting.
On Thursday, it was with the support of these two parties that lawmaker Harivansh, a first-time lawmaker backed by the BJP-national coalition, secured 125 votes and won the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election.
The government's effort to push the bill in the Rajya Sabha, irrespective of the outcome, is also seen as an attempt to corner the Congress.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad appeared to lay the foundation for the barbs that will follow when he, after outlining the proposed changes at Thursday's cabinet briefing, turned his attention to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
"I want to ask Sonia Gandhi, will you stand up for women's honour and pride? Congress should make their stand clear," Mr Prasad said.
When last month, Rahul Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "walk the talk" on the women's quota bill, Mr Prasad wrote back urging the Congress to support the "triple talaq" bill.