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The government on Tuesday shot down the Opposition's demand that the triple talaq bill be sent to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, but indicated that it might be open to accepting some of the amendments to the bill suggested by the Opposition.
The Lok Sabha had passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, popularly known as the triple talaq bill, last week. The government plans to table the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in a minority, on Wednesday. The bill seeks to criminalise the practice of instant divorce among Muslims.
While it had pointed to lacunae in the bill, demanded some of its "draconian" measures be amended and that it be sent to a standing committee of Parliament, the Congress had supported the bill in the Lok Sabha, as had the Left parties and Trinamool Congress. Some of the smaller parties, however, had opposed the bill.ALSO READ: Lok Sabha passes triple talaq Bill; Congress and other parties go along
On Tuesday, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel and Opposition leaders attended the Business Advisory Committee meeting of the Rajya Sabha. Communist Party of India (CPI)'s D Raja and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's(DMK) Tiruchi Siva and some other Opposition leaders demanded the Bill be referred to a Rajya Sabha select committee for further study.
Given its numbers in the Rajya Sabha, a united Opposition can vote to send the bill to a select committee. The government strategists dared the Opposition to be ready for a vote if they insisted on sending the bill to a select committee. Two of the bigger Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and Trinamool Congress, as also the Left parties, do not want to be seen to be stalling the bill and expose themselves to accusations of "Muslim appeasement".
Some Opposition leaders even demanded a 12-hour debate, which was also ruled out by the government. While smaller parties might push for the bill to be sent to a select committee, the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Left parties are unlikely to allow it to come to a vote.
The Opposition is now working on a coordinated strategy to push through amendments, particularly to ensure that the bill's provision on non-bailable arrest is watered down. Another meeting of the House business advisory committee is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, the government urged the Congress not to press for amendments to the bill in the Rajya Sabha. "We are having continuous talks with the Opposition parties including the Congress. We have told Congress that since they have not pressed for any amendments in the Lok Sabha, they should do the same in the Rajya Sabha," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said.
The Congress had moved amendments to certain provisions of the bill in the Lok Sabha, but did not press for a vote. "There is no question of us not standing by anything that empowers women. There is no black and white solution to this. We have to see how the debate evolves... what is actually included and how is it implementable.... and until it is equitable for all women under all clauses of talaq. This is only talaq-e-biddat (triple talaq)," Congress Rajya Sabha member Renuka Chowdhury said.
The Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, has also demanded the bill be sent to a select committee. "There is no need to go to any committee because the issue has been debated. What should be the fate of triple talaq affected women? There is a greater consensus within the country that there should be a stringent law, preventive mechanism to give protection to Muslim women. I am confident that all parties will cooperate in Rajya Sabha," Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.