A strident Opposition on Friday made the Modi government sweat in the Lok Sabha over the introduction of the triple talaq bill that seeks to make a pronouncement of instant divorce a criminal offence.
The Lok Sabha witnessed an angry exchange of words between members of the BJP and Opposition members such as Asaduddin Owaisi, Imtiyaz Jaleel (both AIMIM), Supriya Sule (NCP), Kanimozhi (DMK) and a few Congress members as Speaker Om Birla asked Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to introduce the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill.
A heated exchange followed between the Opposition members led by Owaisi and the Treasury benches as the Speaker allowed Prasad to introduce the bill after a voice vote, ignoring the demand for a division.
In an unusual step, the Speaker who had already moved on to the next agenda item— the Homeopathy Central Council (Amendment) bill— agreed for a division of votes to defuse the tensions in the House.
Since the Lok Sabha Secretariat had not allotted the division numbers to the members, the voting had to be done using paper slips and not the automated vote recording system that would have delivered results within a minute.
The government won the vote with 186 members supporting the introduction of the bill and 74 against it. The introduction of the bill was opposed by the Congress, the Left, the AIMIM, the NCP and the DMK.
An exercise that could have taken a few minutes stretched on for nearly 45 minutes as the bill was introduced only after the lengthy voting process.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor said that while his party was opposed to instant triple talaq, the bill was not required as the practice was already declared void by the Supreme Court.
“We are not defending triple talaq. We are opposing a law that does nothing to protect Muslim women but punishes Muslim men. It criminalises their divorces but exempts other men who desert their families without taking responsibility. That is discriminatory,” Tharoor said.
RSP member N K Premachandran also opposed the introduction of the bill.
Prasad rejected the argument that there was no need for law since the Supreme Court had already declared the practice void.
“There have been 224 cases of instant triple talaq after the Supreme Court verdict. Should we tell the victimised Muslim women to go hang the SC judgment on triple talaq in their homes or should we work to give them justice,” the minister asked.