NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha witnessed strange moments over the Triple Talaq Bill today with the Opposition insisting on resuming the discussion started yesterday and the government shying away in what appeared to be an admission of ‘defeat’ as some MPs said later outside the House.

The BJP government had stated with confidence that it would ensure the Triple Talaq Bill was passed in the winter session. But defeated in the game of numbers in the Rajya Sabha all that tthe government could do was block the Bill from being sent to the select committee, and defer the issue to probably the budget session of Parliament.

With the Telegu Desam crossing over to the side of the Opposition, and the the two main Tamil parties refusing to budge, the government found itself hopelessly outnumbered in the Upper House. The Opposition, sensing victory, insisted on resuming the discussion on the Bill with the amendments for it to be moved to a select committee for further consideration very much on the table. The Opposition MPs demanded a division of the House for voting, and insisted that the Chair allow discussion and if necessary voting to take a final decision on the Bill.

Kurien who was again in the Chair when the issue was raised by the MPs said that the Bill was now a property of the House, and it was for the government to decide when to discuss this. He said that the government had not listed the Bill in the list of business for the day so he had no choice but to follow the schedule.

Opposition members pointed out that the discussion had remained incomplete on Wednesday, and hence should be resumed as per what was the normal practice of the House. The members reminded the Chair that he had accepted the two amendments as valid, and that when they had pressed for a division he had said that he could not do so as there was no order in the House. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O Brien said that a process had been started, and it was now necessary for it to be completed.

Quoting the Chairman Venkiah Naidu repeatedly, Kurien who was in the Chair said that it was for the government to decide when to take up the Bill. And that it had not been listed so there was little he could do.

Significantly there was no response from the government to this, with the issue being raised at least twice by the Opposition members insisting the Triple Talaq Bill be taken up. More so as Friday is the last day of the winter session of Parliament, and the later part of the day is taken up by Private Members Bills. It is almost clear that the legislation will not be cleared now in this session, as was the effort of the BJP government when it pushed the Bill through the Lok Sabha. A senior member of the party told reporters on the sidelines that the BJP expected to get the support of the regional parties. Instead not only did the Opposition consolidate behind the demand to refer the “faulty” Bill to a select committee, but the BJP saw a key ally also splitting ranks to support the position taken by the opposition benches.

The government in a shift in strategy decided not to allow the Bill to be sent to a select committee where the Opposition members would be in a majority, and possible changes to the proposed legislation be effected. A major issue that women groups have pointed to is the criminalisation of triple talaq that makes it a cognisable offence, and sends the erring man to jail for three years, without bail. The BJP leaders later made it clear to reporters that the select committee was not an option for the government and the Bill would thus “linger” till the budget session or even after.