The Central government on Tuesday scored a major victory in the Rajya Sabha on the back of cracks in the opposition when the House passed the Triple Talaq Bill after rejecting the opposition's demand to refer the Bill to the Select Committee and to remove the criminality clause which provides for jailing the husband for three years for pronouncing triple talaq to his wife.
The Bill was passed with 99 members in its favour while 84 members voted against it in the final division. In the division on referring the Bill to the Select Committee, the government got 100 votes while 84 voted against.
The BJP led NDA government, which does not have a majority in the Upper House, still managed to have smooth sailing for the contentious bill because parties like AIADMK, which has 11 members and JDU, with six, walked out after recording their opposition to the Bill. The BJD supported the Bill.
At least five members of the Congress, some from Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and others belonging to parties like BSP, YSRCP, and TRS reportedly abstained from voting. NCP's Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel and Jharna Das Baidya of CPI(M) were also absent.
The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha. With the approval of the Rajya Sabha, the Bill is all set to become an Act after the Presidential node.
The amendments moved by several opposition members were also defeated either by voting or by a voice vote.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage), Bill, 2019 criminalises instant triple talaq among Muslims and attracts a jail term of three years for the husband.
Soon after Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu was to take up the Bill for its passage, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the entire opposition was for the empowerment of women but as far as the Bill was concerned, the opposition parties wanted some modification.
"This was the reason the opposition members moved some amendments. Our demand to refer the Bill to the Select Committee was rejected. We were expecting that the government would at least consider the opposition's demand to remove the criminality clause in the Bill which provides to send the husband to jail for three years for pronouncing triple talaq. But this demand was also rejected. So, in compulsion, we will have to vote against the Bill," he said.
After his remarks, the voting took place and the Bill was declared passed by the Chairman.
Earlier, replying to over four-hour-long debate, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the House did not need the mandate of the Supreme Court to pass a law.
He said that it has been brought to protect the rights of Muslim women and not to target any particular community.
Asserting that the Bill was for gender justice, dignity and equality, he said that the offence has been made compoundable and bailable in the Bill.
Prasad said that among the cases related to Triple Talaq which have come to light after the Supreme Court's judgment, 75 per cent of the victims is from poor families.
He questioned the Congress as to why fingers are being raised on the intent of the Bill, saying the Congress government during its rule made the provisions of imprisonment in the Hindu Marriage Act and Dowry Prohibition Act.
He said that a woman had recently approached him because her husband had given her triple talaq over WhatsApp.
"Should I tell these women that you frame the Supreme Court judgment? If they go to the police, they will be told that if there is no law, then they can't file an FIR. I am a minister in the Narendra Modi government and not the Rajiv Gandhi government. If there is a need for justice, we will bring a law for it," he said.
On Opposition parties questioning the jail term in the case of triple talaq, Prasad justified the move by citing the jail terms in anti-dowry law and for Hindu men marrying the second time.
"You spoke a lot today, Ghulam Nabi Azadji. You (Congress) won 400 seats in 1986. There have been nine Lok Sabha elections after that. You did not get a majority in any of them. Think why did that happen? You were 44 in 2014, 52 today. In 1986 you rose to 400. Shah Bano's case happened in 1986 and you never received a majority after that. I am giving you food for thought," he said.
Participating in the debate, Opposition parties stressed that the Bill needs to be referred to a Select Committee for further scrutiny.
While taking part in the debate the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Left parties opposed the Bill.
The NDA constituents AIADMK and the Janata Dal-United too opposed the Bill and staged a walkout. The YSRCP and the TDP too opposed the Bill whereas the Biju Janata Dal supported the Bill.
( With inputs from ANI )