The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, or the triple talaq bill, with 99 votes in favour and 84 against. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on July 25, and now awaits presidential assent.
The bill seeks to outlaw the practice of instant triple talaq, which Muslim men use to divorce their wives by uttering the word “talaq” thrice in spoken or written forms, or via electronic communication. It prescribes imprisonment of up to three years for the offence, and has a provision for subsistence allowance to the offender’s wife and children.
The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated by the government in February. In its previous tenure, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had got the bill passed in the Lok Sabha but it remained pending in the Rajya Sabha as the ruling alliance lacked majority there.
Opposition parties have been against the bill in its current form as they have demanded that the triple talaq be made a civil offence, not criminal. The government prevailed on Tuesday after members of two ruling coalition partners – the Janata Dal (United) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam – walked out of the House as they were against the bill, bringing down the majority mark. Some members of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and YSR Congress Party were also not present in the House. The Biju Janata Dal, a fencesitter, supported the bill.
The Upper House also rejected 100-84 the Opposition’s demand to send the bill to a select committee for scrutiny.
During a debate that was four and a half hours long, political parties put forth similar arguments as they had done in the Lower House. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed the bill sought to protect Muslim women but the idea was to destroy Muslim families. He called it politically motivated. Congress member Amee Yajnik said she was only against the idea of making triple talaq a criminal offence.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had tabled the bill, responded to the debate before the voting. He defended the proposal for jail term, citing jail provisions in the anti-dowry and anti-polygamy law for Hindu men.
He also responded to Azad, saying he should think why the Congress could never win a majority in the Lok Sabha since getting over 400 seats in 1984. He cited the Shah Bano case of 1986 to make his point. “I am a minister of Narendra Modi government and not Rajiv Gandhi government,” he added.
Prasad said the BJP may be receiving fewer votes from Muslims but it considers them a part of the country. He asked members to look at the bill through the prism of humanity and not politics.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court had struck down instant triple talaq, calling the Islamic practice unconstitutional and in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which provides for equality before the law. The Centre then brought a bill, which the Lok Sabha passed multiple times but kept getting stuck in the Rajya Sabha. However, the government kept promulgating ordinances to the effect.
Companies (Amendment) Bill passed
The Rajya Sabha also passed amendments to the Companies Act to make compliance stricter, especially in the context of corporate social responsibility. The amendment bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
One of the amendments proposes to force companies that do not fulfil their corporate social responsibility obligations to deposit the money that should have been spent for that purpose in a special account. Under the existing law, companies earning profits over Rs 5 crore or having a turnover of Rs 100 crore or having a net worth of more than Rs 500 crore, must spend at least 2% of their three-year annual average net profit into activities under corporate social responsibilities.
The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with a voice vote.
Code on Wages Bill in Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha, meanwhile, passed the Code on Wages Bill that seeks to consolidate wage laws. Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said the legislation would benefit 50 crore workers.
The bill subsumes four labour laws – Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Wages Act, Payment of Bonus Act and Equal Remuneration Act, PTI reported. All these four Acts will be repealed if the bill becomes law.
The bill has provisions for minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees across sectors and wage ceilings. At present, the Minimum Wages Act and the Payment of Wages Act apply to workers below a wage ceiling working in scheduled employments only.
The draft law was introduced in the previous Lok Sabha in August 2017 and had been referred to a parliamentary standing committee. The committee submitted its recommendations in December. However, the bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha, and was presented again in the current session.