NEW DELHI — The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Jan. 3 forced an unprecedented adjournment in the Rajya Sabha as the opposition pressed for the Triple Talaq Bill to be sent to a Select Committee of the House for closer scrutiny.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, known as the Triple Talaq Bill, in the House amid protests from the opposition, which sought a discussion over the anti-Dalit violence in Koregaon-Bhima in Maharashtra.
Both Prasad and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the opposition of creating a ruckus to avoid tabling the Triple Talaq Bill, a charge vehemently denied by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad.
As soon as the bill was moved, Trinamool Congress' Sukhendu Sekhar Roy brought Rule 125, which confers on MPs the power to recommend referring a bill to a Select Committee, to the Chair's notice.
The opposition tried to prevent Prasad from giving a statement on the proposed legislation, which has provisions to jail Muslim men who give instant divorce by uttering 'talaq' thrice.
Congress leader Anand Sharma moved an amendment that read: "This House being strongly committed to women empowerment and women's rights refers the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 as passed by the Lok Sabha to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for parliamentary scrutiny and to ensure complete justice to women and safeguarding their interest and welfare."
He said the Committee would submit its report in the first week of the Budget session.
Sharma proposed 17 names of members from different opposition parties including the Congress, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Telugu Desam Party, Biju Janata Dal, Communist Party of India, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Indian Union Muslim League and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, apart from that of nominated member K.T.S. Tulsi, adding that the government could give its names.
Jaitley objected to the motion saying the opposition had "sprung a surprise" by suddenly moving this amendment without giving a proper notice at least 24 hours in advance as required by the rules.
Arguing against referring the bill to a Select Committee, Jaitley said: "The Supreme Court declared the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional. Two of the (five) judges suspended the practice of triple talaq for six months, beseeching the political parties to make a law to bar triple talaq.
"Now, the six months period of suspension would end on Feb. 22 and there is an urgency to pass this bill," Jaitley said.
Kapil Sibal of the Congress, who appeared in the case on behalf of the Muslim Personal Law Board, clarified that the suspension was a minority ruling and hence was not binding and there was no hurry to rush with the legislation.
A visibly agitated Derek O'Brien of Trinamool raised his voice: "We all want this bill, but this bill is faulty. Who have you consulted? We don't want to pass a faulty bill."
As the treasury benches accused the Congress of opposing the bill for the sake of minority votes, Sharma said that if the government was sincere about women's rights, it would advance a bill on reservations for women as soon as possible.
"Parliament cannot be a rubber stamp of the government," Sharma said.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal contended that the Constitution visualized a bi-cameral Parliament for the very purpose that "if one House errs, the other House rectifies it."
"Sir, in a democracy majority opinion prevails. Let's have a division of votes on the issue," Azad told the Chair amid a ruckus by the treasury benches.
BJP members who were already on their feet started shouting and came into the aisles.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, expressing his inability to proceed with the division of votes amidst the din, adjourned the House for the day.
The BJP and its allies are in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and the result of a division of votes is a foregone conclusion.