Send triple talaq bill to select committee, says Opposition in Rajya Sabha
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved the bill in Rajya Sabha, saying it has been brought to ensure justice for Muslim women and should not be seen through a political prism
New Delhi: Opposing the contentious triple talaq bill, parties like Congress, TMC, SP, AIADMK and DMK on Tuesday demanded in Rajya Sabha that the proposed legislation be sent to select committee for further scrutiny. Most of the opposition members objected to the provision of criminalising instant triple talaq. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved the bill in Rajya Sabha, saying it has been brought to ensure justice for Muslim women and should not be seen through a political prism.
Urging members to approve 'The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019', he said the practise of triple talaq is continuing despite the Supreme Court banning the same through its judgement. The Bill has been passed by Lok Sabha last week. Participating in the debate, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that the bill is politically motivated and the real objective behind bringing the Bill was destruction of Muslim families. He claimed that the objections raised by him have not been addressed and instead the government has done "cosmetic surgery".
Azad observed that marriage is a civil contract in Islam and it is being given a criminal face through the proposed legislation. He sought to know if the government will provide sustenance allowance to women whose husbands are lodged in prison for Triple Talaq during the three-year period. The Congress leader claimed that Talaq could be uttered thrice in anger like a curse, and may not be actually executed, and therefore, men cannot be punished for it.
Triple Talaq according to Supreme Court is null and void, Azad said, wondering how Muslim men after staying in jail for three years will go home and live peacefully with their wives. Accusing the government of being selective in honouring Supreme Court order, Azad asked Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad if he would implement all the minority judgements given by the apex court since 1947. He said it will lead to discord in Muslim families and society and if the government wants to listen to the Supreme Court, it should also bring a law on lynching and not resort to selective implementation. Opposing the Bill, he said a law should not be made to "finish one particular religion" and claimed that the "cat has come out of the bag", demanding that it be sent to Select Committee, which will see what has to be retained in the Bill. He said the government should not target one section by framing an "unconstitutional" law but instead provide 33 per cent reservation to women for their empowerment, the way Congress government had earlier brought in reservation for women in panchayats, corporations and local bodies.
Azad also accused the government of "double speak" and said empowerment is needed not only for Muslim women but also for Hindu, Christian and Jain women. He demanded that the bill should be sent to a select committee. TMC member Dola Sen raised the same demand.
"Both Houses have passed 16 bills together in the current session and only one has been sent to select committee. Earlier Lok Sabha sent 60 to 70 per cent bills to select or standing committee for scrutiny," he said.
She said, "Just because an ordinance (to ban instant triple talaq) has been brought, it does not mean that it has been scrutinised... We have not become Presidential form of government or dictatorship... till that happens, let's function as Parliamentary democracy." Talking about women empowerment, she said, "14 per cent of the members in Parliament are women.
Government says it is historic. She demanded that if the government is so keen on women empowerment then it should extend the session by one more day and bring Women's Reservation Bill as it would benefit 60 crore women. Elaborating on why the bill should be sent to select committee, she explained, "The husband can be jailed for three years under the bill. Will that mean that women would not be allowed to marry for three years. How the maintenance will be paid."
She demanded that the criminality clause in the bill be removed and the bill referred to select committee. SP member Javed Ali Khan made the same demand. He alleged that the the government is having a "hidden agenda" in the garb of the bill which was directed to "score a point" with its vote bank. He also asked the Law Ministry about the status of the group of minister on women empowerment formed in October 2018 which had to submit its report in three months. He said one of the ministers on the panel had found a mention in the 'Metoo' campaign with allegations that he had exploited women.
"The (then) minister was the man of the match of the Metoo 20-20 match," he said. He also said that an act can be categorised as offence in law only when it causes public disorder, but as per experts triple talaq does not do that. A Navaneethkrishanan (AIADMK) claimed Parliament has "no legislative competence" to entertain this bill. He explained that marriage in Muslim law is a civil contract and breach of contract (divorce) cannot be criminalised. He said that when Supreme Court has decided that instant triple talaq is null and void then it cannot be declared as offence. Strongly opposing the bill, he demanded that the bill be sent to select committee.
Echoing similar views, Elamaram Kareem (CPM) said that the Supreme Court has already set aside instant triple talaq saying it is void and unconstitutional and nowhere the apex court has said that instate triple talaq needs to be criminalised. He said that this bill is an encroachment on the rights of the people. RJD member Manoj Jha claimed the bill is a "violent tampering with the Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law). You want to demonise Muslim men. Don't get the bill passed by managed majority." Tiruchi Siva (DMK) also alleged that there was a hidden agenda behind the bill and "one group is being targeted". He also opposed criminalising the instant triple talaq and demand that the bill should be referred to select committee. Prasanna Acharya (BJD) supported the bill but opposed the criminalisation of instant triple talaq. He said that the provision that any blood relation of a women can be complainant, could be misused.
Earlier particiating in the debate, Amee Yajnik of Congress said through this bill, the government has thrust women into a criminal magisterial court for settling family matters. Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, divorcing through instant triple talaq will be illegal, void and would attract a jail term of three years for the husband. While the bill makes triple talaq a "non-bailable" offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail.
In a non-bailable offence, bail cannot be granted by police at the police station itself. Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena supported the Bill, terming it "historic" and said it will impart strength to Muslim women. "After this, (Article) 370 will also go, (Article) 35A will also go," Raut said, referring to provisions that give special status to Jammu and Kashmir. V Vijayasai Reddy of the YSRCP opposed the Bill.
According to him, sending husband to prison for three years is virtually shutting the door for reconciliation. Saroj Pandey of the BJP said that on April 23, 1985, the Supreme Court had given the judgement in favour of Shah Bano, but the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not stand with the decision. She said those who oppose Triple Talaq Bill are anti- women. TKS Elangovan of the DMK said he welcomes the Supreme Court order on Triple Talaq but opposes the Bill, terming it "faulty". Nazir Ahmad Laway of PDP also opposed the Bill.
NCP's Majid Memon said his party is unable to accept the proposed legislation for various reasons. Supporting the Bill, nominated member Swapan Dasgupta said an attempt has been made to address Muslim social reforms through the proposed legislation. Narendra Jadhav (Nominated) also endorsed the bill.
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