The government is ready to discuss the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha and was open to suggestions from the opposition -- but referring it to a Select Committee made no sense, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill -- commonly called the triple talaq bill as it criminalises "instant" divorce among Muslims -- is scheduled to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the coming week as part of the government's business.
"Let's discuss the bill in the House and the members can move amendments. Nobody can stop a member from moving any amendment," Naqvi told IANS in an interview.
"But where is the sense in insisting on refering the bill to a select committee of the House? What will the Select Committee do? Even the House can scrutinise legislation," he added.
The Select Committee may also invite suggestions from stakeholders such as various Muslim organisations and women's bodies, which the government has apparently not done.
The opposition, Muslim bodies and women's rights groups have accused the government of "unilaterally" drafting the legislation without seeking any opinion from the stakeholders or those who would be directly affected by the proposed law.
However, Naqvi said: "We have said it earlier too and reiterate that the government is open to suggestions on the bill from the opposition and others."
But on the question of negotiating the penal provision -- which is the main bone of contention -- the minister said the bill would make no sense without this as the practice of triple talaq continues even after the Supreme Court banned it.
Under Section 4 of the bill, "Whoever pronounces talaq upon his wife by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine."
It also provides for a subsistence allowance for a divorced woman and her children as determined by a magistrate and provides custody of the minor children to the woman in case of divorce.
The government had introduced the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha on January 3 this year during the winter session of Parliament. The Lok Sabha had earlier passed the bill.
Almost all the opposition parties have objected to the penal provision in the bill and had insisted it be sent to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for closer scrutiny. Congress leader Anand Sharma and Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Shekhar Roy had moved amendments to this effect.
Sharma even suggested the names of the 17 members of the select panel from the opposition's side, leaving it to the government to give its names.
The government, however, vociferously objected to the proposal, citing various technical reasons. The opposition even demanded voting on the issue on the day the bill was introduced as well as the next day, January 4.
However, on the first day, the treasury benches members created a ruckus, forcing the chair to adjourn the House for the day, saying voting could not be done unless the House was in order.
The next day, the government listed the bill at the bottom of the day's business, prompting loud protests from the opposition, which wanted it to be taken up early and a vote taken. The chair said he could not help as it was the government's prerogative at which position to list a bill. Amid pandemonium, the House was adjourned for the day.
The winter session concluded the next day on January 5, and the triple talaq bill is still pending in the upper House.
On March 16, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel, while announcing the coming week's business, also listed the triple talaq bill for considering and passing.