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The deadlock on the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha continued on Thursday with the opposition insisting on its reference to a Select Committee for detailed scrutiny and the government rejecting the demand.
With no agreement, the government placed the bill in the bottom of priority in the list of business, which the opposition strongly objected to and demanded that its motions for referring the bill to a Select Committee be taken up immediately.
As Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien pleaded helplessness on the ground that the listing of business was the government's priority and decided to go ahead with a bill on GST, opposition members created an uproar, forcing him to adjourn the House for the day.
It now remains to be seen whether the government lists the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which seeks to criminalise instant divorce by uttering talaq thrice, for consideration on Friday -- the last day of the winter session.
Earlier, the opposition wanted the Chair to put the motions moved by Congress leader Anand Sharma and Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Shekar Roy for reference of the legislation to a proposed Select Committee be put to vote immediately.
They contended that before the House adjourned on Wednesday, a division was to be taken and so the Rajya Sabha should pick up the thread from where it was left.
After some discussion, the two sides agreed to conduct a short-duration discussion on the economy and take up the matter regarding triple talaq bill after that.
After Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's reply to the discussion, the opposition returned to its demand for a vote on the two motions.
Jaitley, who is also Leader of the House, raised questions over the validity of the two motions saying the statutory requirement of 24 hours advance notice was not given and that the proposed committee was not representative in character.
Citing earlier rulings, he said a parliamentary panel has to represent the character of the House and be a "microcosm of the House".
Jaitley also said the work of a Select Committee was to improve a bill and a "saboteur" cannot be a part of the panel and as such was disqualified to be a part of it.
Intervening, Sharma said even when he had moved the resolution on Wednesday he had said in writing that the names of BJP and NDA MPs could be included in the proposed panel.
Sharma demanded that under Rule 131 an unfinished business has to be finished first.
Trinamool's Roy said the matter came to the House on Wednesday because the government was not agreeable to the reference of the bill to a Select Committee during a discussion in the Business Advisory Committee. "I am open to getting government members on the committee."
Kurien brushed aside Jaitley's objections saying the two motions have been allowed by the Chairman and he had no powers to change the decision.
The Deputy Chairman said if there were technical defects in the motion, the Secretariat should have gone into it but once admitted by the Chairman, he cannot do anything about it.
Now that the motions have been moved in the House, they have become the property of the Rajya Sabha and only members have the right to decide on their fate.
On 24 hours advance notice, he read out a rule which prescribed a day's notice but also left it to the discretion of the Chairman whether to admit it earlier.
However, after giving the ruling, Kurien said on priority in finalising the list of business, the government has the final say and cannot give precedence to triple talaq bill over a GST legislation listed before that.
This led to heated exchanges between Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, leading to uproar that forced the adjournment of the House for the day.