NEW DELHI: The Triple Talaq Bill has emerged as the first test for the Modi government in Parliament, with hectic lobbying by both the BJP and the Congress-Left to stitch up the numbers in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow.

The mandate that the government seemed to have got in the Lok Sabha through the weak response of the Congress and other regional parties like the Trinamool Congress has fractured in the face of a strong campaign by women against the criminal provisions of the Bill. With a demand that this be deferred to a select committee for further consideration.

The Congress has tightened its position, as has the Trinamool Congress that had actually not opposed the Bill in the Lok Sabha. Its leaders now claim that this was because the Opposition did not have a majority in the Lower House and there was no point in opposing the Bill, but that now it would be with the rest of the Opposition.

Interestingly, the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal had both opposed the Bill strongly in the Lower House. While there is no change in the BJD position, the BJP now claims the support of the AIADMK. However, so does the rest of the Opposition with the AIADMK still expected to keep the same stance as it had in the Lower House.

The BJP has made the Triple Talaq a prestige Bill,with the government determined to get it passed through this session of Parliament. The Opposition that can just about get the numbers if all political parties rally against the BIll and no members shift stance, will demand it be sent to a select committee. However, the government will agree only if it is sure that a vote in the Rajya Sabha will go against it. Hence the need to secure a simple majority with both sides for and against the Bill counting numbers.

If sent to a select committee, the Bill will be re-examined, amendments suggested after consultations, and will then be sent back for the reconsideration of both Houses of Parliament. This, in effect, means that it will not be passed in the winter session and can only be taken up earliest during the budget session of Parliament.

The media hype around the Bill had silenced some of the political parties when it came up for discussion in the Lok Sabha. The Congress members opposed it but the party did not come out strongly against the Bill, adopting a low key approach lest it be seen as pro-Muslim men, and against the women who have been victimised as a result of triple talaq.

The projected ‘unity’ of Muslim women behind the government’s Triple Talaq Bill has been exposed as non-existent with a strong campaign by women across all walks of life questioning “disturbing” provisions in the Bill.

In the process, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan that has been backing the Bill including its criminal provisions-- whereby triple talaq is made a cognisable criminal offence, with the offending Muslim man facing non-bailable three years in prison---has been isolated. Alll other women organisation that have been working on gender justice and the abolition of triple talaq have rejected the criminal provisions of the Bill, demanding it be sent to a standing or select committee of Parliament.

A petition is currently being circulated by groups and individuals on the internet---through Facebook, Twitter, email---and gathering signatures even as the political parties were meeting in the Business Advisory Committee to finalise their strategy viz a viz the legislation in the Upper House tomorrow.

The petition states: “We, citizens concerned with gender justice and minority rights are deeply disturbed with the manner in which a Bill criminalising instant Triple Talaq, was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha on 28th Dec, 2017 (The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017)

The Bill aims to protect the rights of Muslim women, but we believe, it will cause more harm to them if it is passed in its present form. We urge you to call for consultations from a wide section of people working with Muslim women so that the aim of securing gender justice is truly achieved.

Our concern with the current Bill:

a. It has many contradictions and anomalies.

b. It pushes Muslim women into a new statute which will incarcerate their husbands.

c. It gives power to a third person to file a criminal charge, which can be extremely dangerous.

d. It does not specify the time period for the case to be concluded.

e. It does not specify who will provide sustenance to the woman when her husband is in jail.

Utterance of the words “talaq” three times has been invalidated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in August, 2017, which means that her marriage remains intact. Since the marriage is intact, Muslim women, like all other women, have a recourse in law both criminal (S. 498A of IPC – cruelty to wives) and civil (the Protection of Women Domestic Violence Act, (PWDVA) 2005 which secures the rights of all women facing domestic violence to maintenance, residence, protection from violence and to custody of their children). We believe that Muslim women must take recourse to these two laws to protect their rights.

We, the undersigned, urge that the Bill should be sent to a select committee to discuss its pros and cons in the true spirit of democracy.”