Talaq bill will come up for discussion in Budget session

United opposition successfully scuttled government’s move to get the controversial triple-talaq bill passed in Rajya Sabha refusing to refer in to Parliamentary committee for scrutiny. The House was adjourned without taking any decision on the bill as the opposition was not prepared to relent.

The government, for want of majority in the upper House preferred not to press for passage. The bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha in the current session was introduced in Rajya Sabha last week could not be taken up for discussion as opposition demanded that the bill be referred to the select committee.

The motion though admitted by the Chairman could not be taken up as both sides were engaged in levelling allegations and counter allegations that led to pandemonium. The bill will now comes up for discussion in the budget session of Parliament later this month. The government allowed the fate of the bill to hang in balance as it is confident of having a majority in the upper House in the second half of the budget session when the bill will to come up for discussion.

 With government keen on discussion before it is sent to the parliamentary committee. The ruling party wanted a discussion on the bill to use it to its political advantage during the inter-session period because in any case the bill is not going to be passed in the current session of Parliament. The Parliament will meet again in early February for budget session. The major part of the budget session is generally taken up by the bills relating to financial matters. The triple-talaq bill as it is popularly known would come up for debate and passage during the second half of budget session of Parliament only.

The opposition contended that the bill needs to be scrutinized by the parliamentary committee because none of the stake-holder was consulted at the time when the bill was drafted. The government side insisted on the debate and passage on the ground that the bill is complete and doesn’t require any further consultation.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned in a din despite members of the Congress party moving motion saying the judgment of the Supreme Court is not reflected in the bill. The opposition cited a convention in favour of their demand that there is a convention in the upper House that a bill introduced is sent to the select committee to come back as a complete and flawless bill.

“This government has flouted similar rule in the other (Lok Sabha) is also trying to do so in this House also. We cannot allow the government to pass an incomplete bill that doesn’t address the concerns of all the stake-holders,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the House in Rajya Sabha.

There are many provisions in the bill that a large section of the Muslim society and intelligentsia are opposed to like criminalise the practice of triple talaq. They argue that using penal actions leading to imprisonment to discourage the practice of triple talaq will not help in getting justice for women. When a woman files a complaint about triple talaq, she wants to continue staying in the matrimonial home and draw financial support from her marital home. Imprisoning the husband will deprive her of both, making her and her children even more vulnerable. In fact, the bill has not elaborated on this.

The ruling side is insisting on pushing through bill despite not having majority in the Rajya Sabha and even some of the allies of the ruling coalition like Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam Party are in favour of sending the bill to the select committee. Some regional parties like AIDMK and Biju Janata Dal, which generally are considered to be siding with the government and help in getting many bills passed, are also demanding the bill to be sent to the parliamentary committee. Even Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool has also announced its opposition to the bill creating more it trouble for the government.

With an eye on the next year assembly elections in eight states, the ruling BJP is determined to get the bill passed in Rajya Sabha during the winter session itself. “We want the bill to be passed without going to a select committee to expose the Congress before the people as it is against the interests of Muslim women,” said a senior functionary of the ruling party.

The lower House of the Parliament passed the controversial bill last week by voice vote as the government had a comfortable majority in the House. Even the protests from the some smaller parties, which tried to push through their amendments in the bill, failed to do so as the majority of the members of the ruling side overruled them. The right wing pro-Hindu ruling Bhartiya Janata Party under the leadership of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly changed its track and has been trying through various means that its acts are instrumental in restoring the dignity of the Muslim women. When the triple-talaq bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, the ruling side was confident that the smooth passage of the bill in Lok Sabha would discourage the principle opposition Congress party from raising the objections to the bill in the other House.

On the contrary, the opposition with the support of some of the allies of ruling coalition mounted pressure on the government for further discussion and consultation with all concerned parties so as to put the government on the mat when discussion on the bill is taken up. The opposition through the select committee instrument wants to highlight some of the serious shortcomings of the bill, which they argue should be addressed before placing it for debate and passage in the House.

 The bill they say is unclear on many important counts like if husband of a woman who is made victim of instant talaq dies who would paying the maintenance to her to take care of her children. Since the offense has been made bailable, how the police would prove the offense and how the evidence would be gathered to prove that the instant talaq has really taken place. The leaders of the ruling party instead of making their stand clear on such contentious issues, blamed opposition terming its stand as ‘confused’. Moreover, if the bill is passed and converted into a law, it has the potential of being misused as it would give anyone the right to lodge a complaint to the police against triple-talaq subsequently leading to the arrest of the man. There is no guarantee that the new law would not be misused.

(Kushal Jeena)