Triple Talaq Bill: Discussion In Rajya Sabha Stalled Amid Opposition Demands For Reference To Select Committee

Triple Talaq Bill: Discussion In Rajya Sabha Stalled Amid Opposition Demands For Reference To Select Committee

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018, commonly known as the Triple Talaq Bill, could not be taken up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, amid demands from the opposition that it be first referred to a select committee.

Before the session, the opposition party leaders reportedly met in the parliament building to finalise their strategy for the day. The motion for reference of the bill to a Select Committee was then moved by the Trinamool Congress.

During the session, while Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress asserted that historically, such bills are either sent to the Standing Committee or Select Committee, Parliamentary Affairs minister Vijay Goel accused the opposition of "doing politics" over an important bill.

The house was then adjourned for 15 minutes. After reassembly, Anand Sharma from Congress once again alleged that it was the government which was actually politicising the bill.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad then proposed that the government was open to discussions on the bill and to any additions that the opposition may want in the bill. He asserted that the issue involves the lives of thousands of women and should not be subjected to politics. He also stressed that the Bill was not against any particular community.

The house was, however, adjourned till January 2, with the opposition and the ruling party accusing each other of employing political tactics over an important bill.

It was in August, 2017 that the Supreme Court had declared the practise of 'triple talaq' to be unconstitutional, by 3:2 majority.

The Lok Sabha had then passed the Triple Talaq Bill in last year's winter session during December, 2017. After the Bill got blocked in Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session, the Government had brought in an Ordinance in September, 2018.

The present Bill to replace the Ordinance was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 17, 2018. It declares pronouncement of talaq, including in written or electronic form, a punishable offence which can lead to imprisonment up to three years and fine. Talaq for the purposes of the Bill means "talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce pronounced by a Muslim husband".

This Bill has changed some of the contentious provisions in the earlier Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha in December, 2017. As per the earlier version, the offence was cognizable, which meant that anyone could have lodged FIR in respect of the practise. Also, the offences were non-bailable and non-compoundable as per the previous Bill.

As per the present Bill, cognizance of the offence can be taken only on complaint is lodged by the victim wife or her close blood relatives. Also, the offence will be compoundable at the instance of the wife on such terms and conditions as deemed fit by the Magistrate. The offence is also bailable, and Magistrate can grant bail, but only after hearing the wife. The Bill provides for grant of custody of the minor child to the wife, and also maintenance suitably determined by the Magistrate.

This Bill was cleared by Lok Sabha on Thursday. The passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha had witnessed intense debates, with several opposition members questioning the rationale behind criminalisation of talaq, which is essentially a civil wrong.

N K Premachandran, MP from RSP and Asaduddin Owaisi, MP from AIMIM, had voiced the apprehension that the stringent provisions of the bill will be used to target Muslim men. Since triple talaq has been declared to be void by the Supreme Court, there was no purpose achieved by criminalising it, they had argued.

Despite their vehement opposition, the Bill was passed with the support of 245 members. Members of Congress, AIADMK and Trinamool Congress had staged a walk out.

Rajaya Sabha MPs Binoy Viswam and K Somaprasad from CPI and Elamaram Kareem from CPI(M) have since written to the Chairman requesting to refer the Bill to a Select Committee before consideration and passing.

(With PTI inputs)