The triple talaq bill, passed thrice by the Lok Sabha, cleared its toughest test in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday when some parties opposed to the law such as Nitish Kumar’s party and the AIADMK decided to abstain from voting. Their absence from voting helped bring down the effective strength of the 240-member Rajya Sabha and the majority mark.
The opposition demand to send the bill to a select committee was rejected with only 84 members voting for it, 100 against. The triple talaq bill was passed soon after with 99 members in support. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad showed the victory sign as he emerged out of Parliament. “Today is a historic day. Both the Houses have given justice to Muslim women. This is the beginning of a transforming India,” Prasad told reporters.
The bill, which outlaws instant triple talaq, stipulates three years jail for violations. The ban is already in force through an ordinance but has been a top priority for the NDA government. It was the first bill introduced in Parliament after the NDA government was re-elected to power.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, first brought to parliament nearly 19 months back, had been stuck due to the opposition in the Rajya Sabha where the National Democratic Alliance did not have a majority.
The NDA was still short on numbers. But helped by the opposition’s depleted strength in parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government got the contentious law through by persuading some friendly parties to either back the bill or abstain from voting.
Bashishtha Narain Singh of the Janata Dal-United set the tone early in the debate, telling the Rajya Sabha that his party was against the law and would stay away from the discussion. “Hum iss ka bahishkar karte hain (We boycott this bill),” Singh said. His party has six members.
The AIADMK, which faced a backlash after its lawmaker supported the triple talaq law in the Lok Sabha, extensively spoke against the bill. A Navaneethakrishnan, the AIADMK’s Rajya Sabha floor leader, who demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee in the House, told news agency ANI later that his party was against the legislation and so, would walk out of Rajya Sabha during voting on the bill.
That would bring down the strength of the House, and the majority mark.
Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, on the other hand, has supported the legislation.
Prasanna Acharya told the house that his party had once opposed the bill but had since revised its position because the government had amended some of the provisions to address concerns that it had raised. Acharya did have some concerns and requested the minister to address them in his speech.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad initiated the discussion on the bill, stressing that the members should not look at it from the prism of politics and vote bank.
“This is a question of justice for women and their empowerment… This is a matter of gender justice, dignity and equality,” the minister said initiating the discussion on the bill that has been already cleared by the Lok Sabha.
Congress lawmaker Amee Yajnik said she supported the bill but not the criminalization angle in it. She said the disputes should not be referred to a magistrate’s court but a family court in the interest of a woman’s dignity.
Minorities minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had alluded to the changing power equation in the Rajya Sabha when he recalled how the Congress had “hijacked” the House on the strength of its numbers and blocked the bill.