The deadlock on the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha continued on Thursday as the government rejected the opposition's demand to send the controversial legislation to a Select Committee.
In a development that may end the logjam, the Congress is said to be ready to allow the bill to pass if the government agrees to take the financial responsibility of supporting all such women whose husbands are jailed for divorcing them by pronouncing 'talaq' thrice, the Indian Express reported.
The government tactically 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 first. The business list had the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill ahead of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017.
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 the GST bill, triggering an opposition uproar which finally forced him to adjourn the House for the day.
The government has decided to put the triple talaq bill, 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.Following 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, reiterated his arguments and questioned 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 given in writing that the names of BJP and NDA MPs could be included in the proposed panel. He demanded that under Rule 131 an unfinished business had to be finished first.
Trinamool's Roy said the matter came to the House on Wednesday because the government was not agreeable to reference of the bill to a Select Committee during a discussion in the Business Advisory Committee. "I am open to getting government members in 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. He 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, he said.
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.
The government and the opposition members traded charges of being anti-women, with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asserting that none form the opposition was against the bill but had objections with certain provisions of the legislation which need to be rectified through the Select Committee route.
Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress, Naresh Agrawal of the Samajwadi Party and Madhusudan Mistry of the Congress cited various rules of the House to convince the Chair that the triple talaq legislation must be taken up and disposed of first.
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