Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday sought to justify the ordinance on triple talaq and said the Bill that would replace it would ensure gender equality and the fundamental right of non-discrimination to married Muslim women.
Mr Prasad introduced in the Lok Sabha The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, commonly known as the Triple Talaq Bill, despite opposition from the Congress and amid din over the Rafale controversy and several other issues.
Soon after the House met for the day and then reassembled at noon after the first adjournment and during the post-lunch session, the Congress, the AIADMK and TDP members were on their feet.
The Congress members demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale jet fighter deal with a French company, accusing the government of misleading the Supreme Court with wrong information.
The AIADMK members wanted Karnataka to shelve its proposal to construct a dam across the Cauvery river at Mekadatu, while the TDP members raised several issues related to their demand for a special status to Andhra Pradesh.
Amid the din, Mr Prasad sought permission from the Chair to introduce the Bill.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor opposed the Bill claiming it was targeted at a particular religion and hence unconstitutional.
"The Bill conflates civil law with criminal law by criminalising a wrong form of divorce and by criminalising an act which is already legally null and void," he said.
He said the Bill was an attempt at creating a class-specific legislation on the grounds of religion.
"Instead of focusing on the larger issue of mistreatment and desertion of wives and dependents, which affects all communities, the Bill is couched in terms of a specific religion and therefore is in violation of Article 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution," he said.
Mr Tharoor said the Bill had no procedural safeguards to prevent its misuse.
"This Bill is a misconceived Bill. It should not be brought to the House. I do not believe the Parliament has the competence to enact such a Bill," he said requesting the Speaker to deny permission to introduce the Bill.
His objections were rejected by Mr Prasad.
"The Bill was brought in as per directions of the Supreme Court to protect the rights of Muslim women. Several Muslim women suffered due to instant talaq. This Bill is in the nation's interest and constitutional. The objections raised are baseless," he asserted while introducing the Bill.
The Bill says that any pronouncement of instant triple talaq by a Musim husband upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner, shall be void and illegal.
If anybody pronounces talaq upon his wife, he would be punished with imprisonment for a term which might extend to three years and would also be liable for fine.
"As the Bill is pending for consideration in Rajya sabha and the practice of divorce by triple talaq is continuing, there is an urgent need to take immediate action to prevent such practice by making stringent provisions in the law," Mr Prasad said. "Since both Houses of Parliament were not in session and circumstances existed rendering it necessary for the President of take immediate action in the matter."
"The legislation would help in ensuring the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help subserve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment," he said in the statement of objects and reasons for bringing the Bill.
The government could not pass the Bill in Rajya Sabha during the previous monsoon session.
Later, it issued an ordinance on September 19 making Triple Talaq a criminal offence.