New Delhi, Aug 10: It may seem that the passing of the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha solely hinges on Congress' support, but that is not the case. The support of the Congress and its allies would definitely make the passing of the bill in the Upper House smoother, but it is not that the government does not have any option if the grand old party refuses to back it.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved amendments in the Triple Talaq Bill hoping that the tweaks in the bill would persuade some non-NDA parties, who had concerns about the misuse of the law, to support the bill in its new form.
The Congress has so far not made it clear if it would support the amended bill. When Sonia Gandhi was asked about the bill this morning, she merely said, "Our party's position is absolutely clear on this, I will not say anything on this further."
The TMC has said that it would not allow a discussion on the bill and demanded that it be sent to a select committee.
Today being the last day of the Monsoon Session and the Upper House already being adjourned till 2.30 pm after ruckus over Rafale deal issue, the government has to do something fast.
Yesterday, NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh was elected as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman. If the Rajya Sabha attendance was 100% and had the voting taken place strictly on NDA and non-NDA lines, the BJP-backed candidate stood no chance. But that did not happen and some abstained from voting. Non-NDA parties like BJD and TRS decided to back the NDA candidate.
Three members each of Congress, Samajwadi Party and AAP; two each of TMC, DMK and PDP and one member of the Naga People's Front were absent. Two members of the YSRCP abstained from the voting. This effectively brought down the number needed for NDA candidate to get elected and Harivansh won the elections.
The BJP would expect that something on these lines happens even today. While Congress and the TMC are adamant to oppose the bill, the other Non-NDA parties may decide to back it following the amendments which allows magistrate to grant bail to the accused booked under Triple Talaq law.
However, it is not clear what the two big non-NDA parties, Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK, think about the changes. Between them, the two parties have 22 lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha.
One of the major issues raised by the opposition during the Budget Session was that there was no provision for bail under Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 which criminalises Triple Talaq. The opposition parties had asked who would take care of the family if the breadwinner is imprisoned.
If nothing works out and the session ends, then the government can bring in an ordinance, or emergency executive order to enact the law. But, even then, it would have to be cleared by Parliament within six months.
Ordinances are laws that are promulgated by the President of India on the recommendation of the Union Cabinet. They can only be issued when Parliament is not in session. They enable the Indian government to take immediate legislative action. Ordinances cease to operate either if Parliament does not approve of them within six weeks of reassembly, or if disapproving resolutions are passed by both Houses.
The amendments cleared by the Union Cabinet on August 9:
The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved amendments in the Triple Talaq Bill. Under the amendments cleared, a magistrate will have powers to grant bail. The woman can approach the magistrate to seek subsistence allowance for herself and her minor children, and can also seek custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the matter.
Union Cabinet also approved inclusion of provisions that the complaint in such a case can only be filed by the victim (wife) or blood relations.
What was the Supreme Court judgment:
The Supreme Court had in April 2017 banned the Islamic practice that allows men to leave their wives immediately by stating "talaq" (divorce) three times, calling the practice "unconstitutional". The verdict vindicated the stand of the government, which had said triple talaq violates fundamental rights of women. Three of the five judges hearing the case said it is unconstitutional; the other two wanted it banned for six months till the government introduces new legislation. The majority opinion held that triple talaq "is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality".