On Second Attempt, Triple Talaq Bill Passed in Rajya Sabha

The JD(U), AIADMK staged walkouts, while a motion to send the Bill to a select committee was also defeated.

New Delhi: The contentious Bill that makes the instant triple talaq a criminal offence and provides for a jail term to a Muslim man for the crime was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with the Congress opposing the penal provision and the National Democratic Alliance’s allies All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Janata Dal (United) staging a walkout.

The Bill was passed with 99 votes in favour, 84 votes against. A motion moved to send the Bill for the consideration of a select committee was defeated 84-100. Members of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Telugu Desam Party were absent during the voting.

After the AIADMK and JD(U)’s walkout, the house’ strength dropped to 213. The NDA has 107 members in the Rajya Sabha, and was able to see the Bill through, after it failed to do so during Narendra Modi’s first term.

Moving the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 in the upper house, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the proposed legislation should be not seen through a political prism or vote bank politics, as it aims at ensuring gender dignity, justice and equality. Prasad also devoted a chunk of his rejoinder later in the day in taking down Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, who questioned several aspects of the Bill and called it “politically motivated”.

“In 1986 you rose to 400, then Shah Bano’s case happened in 1986 and you never received a majority after that. I am giving you a food for thought,” he told Azad.

Prasad had begun the day on a more mellow note. “This is a question of humanity,” he said, adding that more than 20 Islamic countries have regulated triple talaq in various forms.

“India is a secular country, but unfortunately, for one reason or the other, this could not happen here,” he said.

Urging members to approve the Bill, Prasad said the practice of triple talaq is continuing despite the Supreme Court banning the same through its judgment. He made note of 574 cases of the illegal practice being reported since the judgment and said 101 of them have come to light after the last ordinance issued by the government, criminalising the practice.

Also watch: Here’s Why the Triple Talaq Bill Does Nothing for the Rights of Women

The minister further said there are reports of Muslim men giving triple talaq to their wife “for serving burnt roti, for asking money to buy vegetables and for opposing an obscene video made by husband.” It is not known which particular cases Prasad may have been referring to.

Seeking to clear some members’ misgivings on the Bill, Prasad said there is a provision that the wife or a relative can file an FIR and a magistrate can give bail to the husband upon hearing the wife.

The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha last week. Now that it has been passed in the Rajya Sabha, it will go to the President, after which it will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 21.

The ordinance and the triple talaq Bill follow a Supreme Court verdict of 2017 declaring instant triple talaq unconstitutional.

Before the Bill was tabled, Congress’s T. Subbarami Reddy, CPI member Binoy Viswam and Elamaram Kareem and K.K. Ragesh from the CPI(M) moved a statutory resolution disapproving the February 21 ordinance.

In the debate, Congress member Amee Yajnik opposed the the criminal angle in the Bill. She noted that through this Bill, the government thrust the women into a criminal magisterial court to take up a family matter. She also voiced concern over desertion faced by women belonging to other communities.

Also read: Why Just Muslims, Let’s Criminalise the Abandonment of All Wives

Bashistha Narain Singh of the JD(U) said some social evils are deep rooted and it takes time to uproot them.

“We come here to oppose as well as speak in a favour (of the Bill or any subject). But the best part of democracy is that people agree to disagree. Today I disagree (on triple talaq) and tomorrow I may agree,” Singh said while staging a walkout.

The AIADMK’s Rajya Sabha floor leader A. Navaneethakrishnan echoed Singh when he told ANI that the NDA ally too would be walking out.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, one of the BJP’s very few Muslim faces, said the law has been brought to implement the apex court verdict more effectively while highlighting steps taken by the Modi government in empowering women.

He sought to know why the Congress’s position on the Bill changed after it was moved in the Rajya Sabha. “If we commit a mistake today, a generation has to pay for it. This law must be passed by parliament,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)