New Delhi: A landmark bill that makes instant "triple talaq" a criminal offence is listed for introduction in the Rajya Sabha today but it may get delayed to Wednesday to give the ruling party an opportunity to try and build consensus on the matter after a long weekend.
- Political parties urge government to refer bill to parliamentary panel
- Both houses must clear the bill for it to become law
- If bill is sent for review, it is unlikely to be passed in winter session
Several parties including the Congress, the Left and the two big parties from Tamil Nadu, AIADMK and the DMK, have been in favour of sending the bill to a panel of parliamentarians to nuance some provisions of the bill that opposition leaders in Lok Sabha had argued, could end up hurting the interest of Muslim women rather than help them.
There is some discomfort at the provision for a three-year jail term for a Muslim man who utters the word "talaq" thrice to divorce his wife. 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.
The bill which was passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday had seen muted protests from opposition parties which had, given the numerical superiority of the BJP in the lower house, put their reservations on record but not really pushed the envelope.
The government is hoping that its pitch, projecting the Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Marriage Bill 2017 as an instrument to restore dignity of Muslim women, would discourage parties such as the Congress from raising a full throated objection in the Rajya Sabha too.
It was in this context that some parties, such as the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, had preferred not to speak on the bill at all in the Lok Sabha too.
The Congress Party, which had repeatedly urged the government to refer the bill to a select committee for putting its clauses under a microscope, too had been careful to underline that it was all for the bill but only wanted the provisions that safeguard the interests of women, strengthened.
It was in this context that apart from interventions from the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, the party had tasked its Silchar lawmaker Sushmita Dev, also the party's head of its women's wing, to initiate the discussion on the bill and seek amendments.
But Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad still tried to put the Congress on the back foot in the Lok Sabha after the debate that had gone on for four hours, accusing the opposition party of "trying to create confusion".
"It (Congress) claims to support the Bill but it has so many 'ifs' and 'buts'... If the Congress party is really concerned about the sufferings of Muslim women, it must stand by this Bill," Mr Prasad had said.
But that was the Lok Sabha where the BJP has a big majority.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP-led NDA is still short of a majority despite an increase in the BJP's numbers - the BJP and the Congress each have 57 members - the government side is depleted with the "triple talaq" bill being opposed by parties like the Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK, considered government-friendly as they regularly help it pass bills.
But this time, if the bill is sent to a parliamentary committee for review, it is unlikely to be passed in the winter session that ends later this week. Both houses must clear the bill for it to become law.
If the Congress and the other opposition parties stand their ground, the government figures it may not have much of a choice. "We will try our best, let's see," is how Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described the situation on Friday.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, news agency Press Trust of India said, had called a meeting of opposition leaders ahead of Tuesday's sitting to mobilise support for a joint approach on the bill.