NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Friday launched a renewed attempt to ban the practice of triple talaq, tabling a fresh version of the controversial Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha after the earlier version of the bill was blocked by the opposition.

The introduction of the bill by union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was followed by protests by members of the opposition, who want the ban, but are against the idea of making it a criminal offence.

A vote to decide if the government could introduce the bill was won by the government 184-74. Among the larger parties that are opposed to the bill is the Congress, which has demanded that it be sent to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny, before being brought to the Lok Sabha for debate.

Introducing the bill, Prasad said it would protect the rights of Muslim women and empower them.

“We have always stated that triple talaq is neither an issue of religion nor of prayer nor of any other communal consideration. It is an issue of women empowerment. It was a matter of great distress that Congress chose to oppose the introduction of the triple talaq bill," Prasad told reporters later. He said the Congress used to be led by a woman- Sonia Gandhi—and yet took an anti-women position in the Lok Sabha. “I must say it is not only painful, but deeply regrettable," the minister added.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, will replace an ordinance issued in February by the previous NDA government. With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month, the bill lapsed, as it was pending in the Rajya Sabha, where the opposition is in a majority.

The government promulgated an ordinance on triple talaq in September 2018 and February 2019, as the contentious bill remained pending in the Rajya Sabha, though it was passed by the Lok Sabha. Under the ordinance, divorcing through instant triple talaq is illegal, void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband. The new bill is the same as the ordinance in force.

“I am not defending (instant) triple talaq, but I am against the text and draft of the bill. Instead of focusing on one community, there should be a law against desertion of wife. The bill does nothing to improve the status of Muslim women. The bill punishes Muslim men, but does nothing to protect Muslim women," said senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in Lok Sabha while opposing the bill.

The bigger problem for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is that some NDA members, such as the Janata Dal (United) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, are also opposed to the controversial bill.

While the BJP has a majority in Lok Sabha with 303 MPs, the NDA parties that support the bill, along with BJP in Rajya Sabha only have 85 MPs, out of the 245 in the upper house. The lack of a majority in the upper house could prove to be a challenge for the government.

To make matters worse for the union government, the bill is opposed by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Telugu Desam Party, Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress.

“Triple talaq bill is unconstitutional. It’s a violation of Constitution’s Article 14 and 15. We already have Domestic Violence Act 2005, CrPC Section 125, Muslim Women Marriage Act. If Triple talaq bill becomes a law, it will be even greater injustice against women. If a man gets arrested, how will he give allowance from jail? Government says if a Muslim man commits this crime the marriage will remain intact and he will be jailed for three years if punished by court. I would like to ask him (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) what kind of justice is this that if such a law is implemented on a non-Muslim man then he goes to jail for 1 year and Muslim man goes to jail for three years," said Asaduddin Owaisi, MP from Hyderabad and chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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