Friday, January 05, 2018

The triple talaq bill hangs in mid-air, not on business list, not sent to select committee

Rajya Sabha's deputy chairman P.J.Kurien stated the complicated situation that The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 217 is in the Upper House. Over-ruling objections raised by Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's objections that the amendments moved by Congress' Anand Sharma and TMC's Sukhendu Sekhar Ray were invalid, Kurien said that the amendments were also motions, and that Chairman (M.Venkaiah Naidu) had allowed them, and therefore they are valid, and as the motions have been moved they are the 'property' of the House, and it is for the House to decide what should be done with them.

When Jaitley rose to reiterate the objections he had raised on Wednesday, and there were loud protests from the Opposition benches, Kurien did not allow Jaitley to go through his complete statement, and he explained to the House the position. He said that there is validity in the points made by Jaitley, but once the Chairman (Naidu) had taken the decision, he cannot over-rule it. When the Opposition members wanted the amendments/motions to be put to vote, Kurien said that the triple talaq bill was not listed as part of the government's business, and it was the GST Amendment Bill that was on the list and therefore he is going to take up the GST Amendment Bill. He adjourned the House as there was an uproar from the Opposition over the situation because Kurien was technically right because the talaq bill was not there on Thursday's legislative business list, which is proposed by the government.

It is clear that the government has kept the talaq bill away from the list. It cannot of course keep it away for long if it means to get it passed in the Rajya Sabha. It will have to find a way out either at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting or informally outside the House. The BJP then has to offer a compromise to the Opposition short of the bill being sent to a Select Committee. Or, it will have to yield to the demand, if not now then in the Budget Session which will begin at the end of January.

The BJP does not want any amendments to the bill and it wants the Rajya Sabha to pass it as it was done in the Lok Sabha, with no changes. The Congress is quite clear that it wants the criminal aspect to be modified, even removed. If the criminality aspect is removed, then there would be nothing substantial left in the bill. Sensing the intent of the opposition, Jaitley in his intervention on Thursday said the select committee should not have members who will 'sabotage' the bill, and the opposition members took objection to the word 'saboteur'.

It would appear that the responsibility of allowing the amendments/motions of Sharma and Roy now falls squarely on the shoulders of Rajya Sabha Chairman M.Venkaiah Naidu. The BJP cannot express its displeasure because Naidu has been the party's candidate. And it is clear that Naidu is playing the scrupulously neutral umpire and he will not give any leeway to the ruling party. The BJP is in a tigh spot.

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