New Delhi: A united opposition today had a face-off with the government over the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha and stalled a debate on it insisting that it should be sent to a select panel, as the ruling BJP strongly sought its expeditious passage to stop the unlawful practice.
Amid noisy scenes, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 for discussion and passage, but pandemonium broke out in the Upper House with the opposition creating an uproar and the BJP countering it vociferously.
The House, which had met at 3 PM after witnessing three adjournments over the Maharashtra caste violence, also witnessed procedural wranglings from both sides.
The bill, which seeks to make instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband, was passed in the Lok Sabha on 28 December.
While the government emphasised the need to pass the bill on an urgent basis citing a Supreme Court judgement pronouncing triple talaq as unconstitutional, the opposition countered it saying the views of various stakeholders must be taken by the select panel.
While supporting the bill, the Opposition parties especially those from the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, insisted that it be referred to a select panel for further scrutiny.
As heated exchanges continued despite warnings and appeals, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House for the day, without giving any ruling on the validity of the opposition’s motion on the select panel.
Appealing for its expeditious passage, the Minister also said that the Congress had supported the bill in the Lower House and asked it to clear its position here.
However, the opposition remained adamant on its demand for setting up of a select committee, with Congress Deputy Leader Anand Sharma moving a resolution to this effect.
Sharma gave a list of opposition members to be part of the proposed select committee and asked the ruling party to suggest its names to the panel, which should give its report in the first week of the Budget Session.
Besides Congress, SP and TMC, the names proposed by Sharma for the panel included leaders of AIADMK, BSP, DMK, NCP, CPI, CPI(M), TDP, RJD, BJD, JMM, IUML and nominated member KTS Tulsi.
The Congress leader, along with Derek O’Brien (TMC), also insisted that the resolution on sending the bill to a select panel be put to vote in the House and a division was sought.
Dubbing Sharma’s motion to set up a select committee as “invalid”, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley objected to the procedure followed by him, saying Rule 70 (sub-rule 2a) cited by Sharma was not applicable here because the bill did not orginate from the Upper House. It orginated in the Lok Sabha and was transmitted to the Rajya Sabha.
The other objection Jaitley raised was that the notice for setting up of a select panel was not given before, thereby breaking the parliamentary procedure.
Citing reasons for the urgency of the bill to be passed to end the unlawful practice, Jaitley explained why the bill should not be referred to a select panel.
“The practice (of triple talaq) was declared unconstitutional on 22 August. Two of the judges…held the practice to be unfair. They used their extraordinary power to suspend this practice for six months. Those six months expires on 22 February.
Countering Jaitley’s views, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the Minister referred to a minority judgement of the Supreme Court on the issue while there was no mention of urgency in the majority judgement of the apex court.
As unruly scenes continued, the ruling party members including ministers were up on their feet and asked, “Is it wrong to give respect to women?”
As noisy scenes and sloganeering continued forcing the chair to finally adjourn the House for the day.