The contrast couldn’t have been more glaring in yesterday’s Lok Sabha when Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) legislation was passed by voice vote after rejecting a string of amendments moved by the opposition members but newly elected Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was absent from the Parliament. Even his absence can be put to the microscope as his father in 1986, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi Muslim Women (Protection of Rights Divorce) Act to negate a Supreme Court order, popularly known as Shah Bano ruling. Not just Congress, many who were present were very cautious including the Trinamool Congress as it was evident as the maximum votes cast for the amendment was four – when the total strength if Opposition are taken into account rallies over 150. The Congress was wary of giving the incumbent government an idea of them being “pro-Muslim” that is why maybe AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, Indian Union Muslim League’s E T Mohammed Basheer and AIADMK’s Anwar Raajhaa were only voices speaking against the bill but never received much traction.
The Congress said it supported the bill but wanted it to be perused by the Standing Committee of Parliament, a demand that was rejected by the chairperson. The RJD and Samajwadi Party also backed the demand of referring the bill to the Standing Committee.The bill will now be sent to the Rajya Sabha for passage before it is forwarded to the President for signing it into Law. Given the Congress’s stated support, the bill is likely to be passed by the Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks majority. However, the main opposition party may again insist on referring the legislation to the Standing Committee. The Supreme Court had outlawed instant triple talaq in August and asked the government to frame a law within six months. Ending the controversial divorce practice was also the Government election promise.
Acting swiftly, the BJP-led government not only introduced the bill today but also got it passed by the Lok Sabha by evening despite its consideration and passage not being part on the agenda. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the bill as part of the listed business, had requested her to allow it to be considered and passed within the day itself, and the request was granted. “We are going to create history. Today is the day to create history,” Prasad said while introducing the bill. He insisted the government did not intend to politicise the issue and the legislation was brought after taking a humanitarian view of it. Although Congress supported the bill, senior leader Salman Khurshid, a former law minister, said the proposed law is an encroachment into the personal lives of citizens, and would bring the civil issue of divorce into the realm of criminal law. There was no floor coordination between RJD, Congress, Trinamool or SP and the Left, even no notice from Congress nor from Trinamool was sent when Sumitra Mahajan asked from every member to submit one if they were objecting against the bill but no notice was there from the entire opposition that helped the Government pass the law with ease.