A Bill to criminalise Muslim instant divorce practice of "triple talaq" remained stuck in Rajya Sabha in face of a combined opposition insisting that it be scrutinised by a select committee of the House.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, which was passed by Lok Sabha on December 27 last year, had come up for discussion just once in the subsequent seven sittings of the House but couldn't pass through the opposition muster. Rajya Sabha did not discuss the bill before being adjourned sine die after the winter session was extended by a day.
This was to allow passage of a bill to provide 10 per cent reservation to the poor in the general category in government jobs and educational institutions.
The government had brought the bill before the Rajya Sabha on December 31 when it faced a united opposition demand for the legislation being sent to a select committee. That day the proceedings of the House was adjourned for the day amid din over the issue. It was listed on the agenda of each of the subsequent sittings of the House but was never taken up for consideration.
The ruling BJP-led NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha and if the bill had been taken up, a resolution of the opposition parties for sending it to select committee would also have to be taken up.
The opposition resolution could potentially have gone through as AIADMK, TMC, NCP, and BJD supported the demand made by Congress and TMC for the bill being scrutinised by the select committee. NDA commands a majority in Lok Sabha. The government has the option of bringing the bill for consideration in the Budget session that is likely to commence on January 31.
In case the bill is not taken up, it has an option to re-promulgate the ordinance. As per rule, the government has to get Parliament's approval for an ordinance within six months for it to become a law. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had previously stated that nearly 22 countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice.
Congress says it is opposed to the three-year prison sentence for offenders and wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to reach a consensus.
The Supreme Court had last year ruled as unconstitutional the divorce procedure known as "triple talaq," in which a Muslim man can instantly leave his wife by simply uttering the Arabic word "talaq" - which means divorce - three times.
Thereafter, the government in September 2018 promulgated an ordinance declaring "triple talaq" as illegal and void, that can be punishable with a jail term of three years for the husband.
Most of the 18 crores Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes.
These laws include the practice of "triple talaq" whereby men can divorce by simply saying "talaq' three times – and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.