On Thursday, the Lok Sabha passed the bill criminalising the practice of instant 'triple talaq' and rejected the contention that it was aimed at targeting a particular community. The bill will now go to Rajya Sabha for approval.
The Opposition, which had been demanding that the bill be referred to a 'joint select committee', staged a walkout when this demand was rejected by the government. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018 was passed by the Lower House with 245 voting in favour and 11 opposing the legislation.
Piloting the bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that there should be no politics on the bill, stressing that it was not against any particular community.
"Don't weigh the bill on the scales of politics. The bill is about humanity and justice," he said, urging lawmakers of different parties to speak in one voice to support the legislation.
The Minister added that he regretted that the opposition parties were creating hurdles in its passage due to "vote bank politics". The fresh bill will supersede an earlier bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha but is still pending in the Rajya Sabha.
This bill is to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence and 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.
In view of the opposition by some parties in the upper house, the government had then cleared some amendments, including the introduction of a provision of bail to make it more acceptable.
Congress, TMC, AIADMK and RJD staged a walkout soon after the Minister concluded his reply. Several amendments moved by the Opposition were negated by a division that was insisted upon by opposition members.
Responding to the demand of the opposition parties, including Congress and Trinamool Congress, that the bill be sent to a select committee for study, the Law Minister said the government has already taken note of concerns expressed by members earlier and amended the bill accordingly.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said the bill has made the offence compoundable, meaning that the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise, and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the law's misuse.
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. Another Muslim man gave talaq to his wife for attending a Prime Minister Narendra Modi rally.
The Union Law minister added that if the House can pass a bill for capital punishment for the rape of girls below the age of 12 years, then they should be able to pass this legislation.
Leader of Congress Party in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said that bill was against the spirit of the Constitution and has violated several articles dealing with the rights of individuals.
Congress MP Sushmita Dev 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, she said that criminalisation of triple talaq goes against the Supreme Court verdict.
AIADMK leader P Venugopal, TMC's Sudip Bandhopadhyay, AIMIM's Assaduddin Owaisi and Supriya Sule (NCP) also made similar demands.
Union Minister Smriti Irani said that if the Parliament can enact laws to ban dowry and the practice of sati, it can also approve the bill to ban instant triple talaq.
Defending the penal provisions in the bill, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was important to instil fear in the minds of those still practising it and rejected suggestions that it was against any religion.