Muslim women walk at the old quarters of New Delhi. File / Money Sharma / AFP
The Triple Talaq bill criminalising instant divorce in the Muslim community was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with the government mustering numbers for its smooth sailing in the Upper House where it still lacks majority support.
The contentious Bill was passed with 99 members voting in favour and 84 against it. It was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.
This is the second instance in recent days when the Modi government managed to come out on top in the Rajya Sabha. The controversial RTI Amendment Bill was passed last week amid a walkout by the Congress.
Replying to the debate on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad countered criticism by the opposition parties on making Triple Talaq a cognizable offence.
He said that nobody questioned the penal provision when the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, Dowry Act of 1961 and Section 498A were brought.
The Minister said the Hindu Marriage Act said the minimum age of the groom should be 21 and of the bride 18. A two-year jail term was provided for those violating the law. Then it was not said that it would disturb married life, he said.
Further, the law provides that a marriage will be void in case a person went for remarriage even as he or she had a spouse.
Quoting a book by an Islamic scholar, Prasad said that if Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) disapproved of Triple Talaq centuries back, why were we in 2019 debating whether it was right or wrong.
Earlier in the day, while participating in the discussion, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad opposed the Bill and demanded it be referred to a Select Committee so that each provision in it was duly analysed and vetted.
Azad took on the Law Minister for selectively quoting Supreme Court orders. He said the government should also bring legislation on mob lynching as a similar direction had come from the apex court in the wake of rising violence against the minority community.
He called the Bill politically motivated and said there was nothing in it to protect Muslim women, for their subsistence allowance and their children.
Javed Ali Khan of the Samajwadi Party, who opposed the Bill, said there were women in the country who had been abandoned by their husbands.
"I want to know if the government is planning to bring any law to ensure the abandoned wives receive allowance from these husbands," Khan asked.
This prompted BJP leader Bhupender Yadav to say that a charge cannot be levelled against any person unless he or she has been convicted by a court.
A. Navaneethakrishnan of the AIADMK dubbed the Bill unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal.
"It is not sustainable under law... I humbly submit to this House that Parliament has no legislative competence to entertain it," he said, demanding scrutiny of the Bill by a Select Committee.
When put to vote after the reply by the Law Minister, the motion to send the Bill to a Select Committee was defeated with 84 in favour and 100 against it.
The Bill makes declaration of triple talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years' imprisonment with a fine.
Under the proposed law, a Muslim woman against whom triple talaq has been declared is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and also for her dependent children.
A Muslim woman against whom Triple Talaq has been pronounced is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.
TMC leader Dola Sen demanded that the Bill be sent to a Select Committee.
"We are all for women empowerment. We are all for women's rights. Two things − one, just remove the criminality clause. Two, don't mock the Parliament by passing this Bill today. Send this Bill to a Select Committee," she said.
BJP's Saroj Pandey countered that all those supporting Triple Talaq were against women.
TKS Elangovan of the DMK said he welcomed the Supreme Court order on Triple Talaq.
"But I strongly oppose the Bill because it is faulty and the government has failed to understand that the court has only made Triple Talaq unlawful and not divorce per se as unlawful," the Tamil Nadu leader said.
The BJD supported the Bill but asked the ruling party why it opposed a judgement on Sabarimala if it wanted to empower women.
Veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh expressed reservation on the manner the Bill was brought and pointed out that the government had not consulted the Muslim community on the issue.
BJP ally Janata Dal (United) walked out soon after discussion started on the Bill.
Indo-Asian News Service
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