Lok Sabha passes triple talaq Bill
The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill with 238 votes in favour and 12 against while the Congress led the entire Opposition to walk out of the House after an five-hour-long stormy debate one of its provision thatcriminalises a civil wrong.
The Opposition demanded that the Bill be sent to a joint select committee while the government maintained that it needs to protect the rights of Muslim women. Some opposition parties, such as the AIMIM, moved amendments to the Bill which were defeated by an overwhelming majority. The Biju Janata Dal moved an amendment to remove the provision that makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years imprisonment with a fine. This too was defeated on the floor of the House.
The Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Opposition, “What is this dichotomy? No one in this House said that he supports triple talaq. Yet they oppose the very Bill that outlaws this condemnable practice.”
‘No vote-bank politics’
On the allegation that it targets Muslims, Prasad said Parliament has earlier made laws to outlaw social practices such as dowry and domestic violence. “We in the BJP do not play vote-bank politics like other parties,” he said.
Besides the Law Minister, who led the debate, the Treasury Benches produced its star speakers — Smriti Irani, Meenakshi Lekhi and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — to counter the Opposition charge that the only reason for the ruling BJP to push the triple talaq Bill is to polarise the country on communal lines. From the Opposition, a number of women MPs spoke up — Ranjeet Ranjan and Sushmita Dev of the Congress and Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — strongly protesting the provision in the bill that penalises that man who divorces his wife with three years’ imprisonment. Almost the entire Opposition supported Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s contention that the bill should be sent to a joint select committee.
The women MPs from the Opposition were extremely critical of the bill. “I don’t cite fake statistics of how many divorces are taking place. I am rooted in my reality and I am citing voices from the ground, from my constituency of women with whom I spoke who said they do not want the father of their children, however deplorable his conduct or whatever the extent of our marital rift, to be sent to jail. It is a marital dispute, it is a divorce case, they would want a settlement… They do not want criminal charges to be brought against the men they married,” said Supriya Sule.
From the Opposition, the AIADMK, TRS, RJD, TDP, TMC, SP, AIMIM, IUML, even the BJD besides the Congress and the CPI(M) demanded that the bill be sent for further scrutiny to a joint select committee. The BJP had the support of its allies, the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), to push the bill.
The statutory resolution to replace the Ordinance that was issued earlier this year with a bill was brought last week in the Lok Sabha. The fresh bill males declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years imprisonment with a fine. An ordinance to this effect was promulgated in September, this year. The ordinance was promulgated because the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill which had been passed in the Lok Sabha, could not get taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session of Parliament because there was no consensus.
BJD’s Ravindra Kumar Jena pointed out that among the Muslims, a marriage is a contract. “A breach of contract is only a private wrong which can only invite unliquidated damages in a civil suit. That is the law of the land. How can it invite criminal proceedings,” asked Jena.