New Delhi: A united opposition in the Lok Sabha on Thursday pitched for referring the triple talaq bill to a 'joint select committee' of Parliament, claiming its provisions were unconstitutional and that there was a need for a greater scrutiny of the draft law.
As soon as the House met at 2 pm after an adjournment to take up the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, demanded it be referred to a joint select committee of both Houses for greater scrutiny.
He said several provisions of the bill were "unconstitutional".
AIADMK leader P Venugopal, TMC's Sudip Bandhopadhyay, AIMIM's Assaduddin Owaisi and Supriya Sule (NCP) also made similar demands.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said a similar bill was discussed and passed by the Lok Sabha and therefore members can flag issues during the debate.
She said all of a sudden a demand cannot be made to send it to a committee.
Speaking in the house before moving the resolution, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the triple talaq bill, which seeks imprisonment for Muslim men accused of instant divorce, is not about politics but empowerment and justice for women.
Responding to demand of opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress that the bill be sent to a select committee for study, Prasad said the government has already taken note of concerns expressed by members earlier and amended the bill accordingly.
Prasad told the Lok Sabha that the bill has made the offence compoundable, meaning that the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise, and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the law's misuse.
"Don't weigh the bill on the scales of politics. This bill is not about any specific religion and community. The bill is about humanity and justice," he said, urging lawmakers of different parties to speak in one voice to support the legislation.
He said as many as 477 cases of triple talaq have been reported since January 2017 and cited a case where a professor gave talaq to his wife over WhatsApp. Whereas another Muslim man gave talaq to his wife for attending the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally, the Union Law minister said, urging if the house unitedly can pass a bill for capital punishment for alleged rape with girls below age of 12 years, then why not this legislation.
Moving his statutory resolution opposing an ordinance issued earlier (which the bill seeks to replace), N K Premchandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) said the bill is bad in law as it seeks to criminalise a "civil wrong" and hence it should be referred to a select committee.
Opposing the triple talaq bill in its current form, Congress MP Sushmita Dev on Thursday said the real purpose of the bill was not to empower Muslim women but to "penalise" Muslim men.
Demanding that the bill be referred to the joint select committee of Parliament, Dev said criminalisation of triple talaq goes against the Supreme Court verdict.
"In the name of empowerment you (the government) have given nothing but a criminal case to women...the aim of the bill is not to empower Muslim women but to penalise Muslim men," she said.
The fresh Bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 to replace an ordinance issued in September.
Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
The fresh bill will supersede an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The earlier bill was approved by the Lower House. But amid opposition by some parties in the upper house, the government had then cleared some amendments, including introduction of a provision of bail, to make it more acceptable. However, as the bill continued to face resistance in the Rajya Sabha, the government issued an ordinance in September, incorporating the amendments.
An ordinance has a life of six months. But from the day a session begins, it has to be replaced by a bill which should be passed by Parliament within 42 days (six weeks), else it lapses.
The government is at liberty to re-promulgate the ordinance if the bill fails to get through Parliament. Citing details of instant triple talaq cases, the government had last week informed the Lok Sabha that till now 430 incidents of triple talaq have come to the notice of the government through the media.
Of these, 229 were reported before the Supreme Court declared triple talaq as unconstitutional, while another 201 came to the notice after it.
These cases were reported between the period January 2017 and September 13, 2018. Four hours have been allocated to discuss the bill....