The much-awaited triple talaq bill, which was expected to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha today, has been deferred.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu announced the decision, saying there was "no unity" in the House over the bill.
Incidentally, the Union Cabinet had made changes to some of its controversial provisions yesterday, with hopes that the opposition will allow it to move forward now.
Triple talaq bill goes to Rajya Sabha
What is triple talaq?
Triple talaq, or the practice of divorcing the wife by instantly saying 'talaq' thrice, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last August. The court asked the Centre to frame relevant laws within six months.
The triple talaq bill as approved by the Lok Sabha
In December, the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017.
Under this, triple talaq in any form (in person, on phone, or through SMS/Facebook/Skype etc) is illegal.
An accused can be jailed for up to three years for this cognizable non-bailable offense.
He will also have to provide maintenance to the wife and dependent children.
The wife can seek custody of minor children.
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Why did the Opposition have a problem with the bill?
The bill faced a roadblock in the Rajya Sabha from Opposition parties like Congress, TMC, RJD, BJD, AIMIM and AIADMK.
One demand was for provision of bail to prevent possible misuse of the law.
Another argument against it was that three-year jail for the husband would leave Muslim women helpless.
Moreover, anyone could file a case under this law, thus opening it to abuse.
What changes has the Cabinet made now?
Yesterday, the Cabinet proposed three changes: first, only the victim, a blood relative or relative by marriage can file an FIR under this law.
The case can be withdrawn if the couple settles their differences.
Third, accused can get bail from a magistrate. Before that, he'll have to agree to provide compensation to the wife.
Since it remains a 'non-bailable' law, bail cannot be granted by police.
The government has options to bypass Rajya Sabha, for now
The government has options to bypass the Rajya Sabha. One is bringing in an ordinance.
An ordinance is valid for six weeks and can be re-issued. However, it'll eventually have to face the house test.
Moreover, six months after a bill is rejected by any House, the President may summon a joint session, where it can be passed by a simple majority.
As Congress-BJP spar, women continue being deprived of their rights
BJP has lashed out at Congress for blocking the bill, asking whether it cares about "women's honor and pride." Congress, in turn, blamed it for "wasting one-and-a-half session by spreading misinformation."
Congress is demanding the Centre pass the women's quota bill. BJP is challenging it to clear the Triple Talaq bill.
In this political fight, women, who have become pawns, are the biggest losers.