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Let’s offer a new deal to women by passing reservation bill: Law minister tells Rahul Gandhi

Ravi Shankar seeked Opposition support for passage of women quota bill, law against triple talaq and bill barring nikah halala.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2018 23:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Triple talaq,Triple talaq bill,Rahul Gandhi
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad welcomed Gandhi’s initiative, but asked why the Congress-led UPA government did not take it up for three years during its second term. (PTI Photo)

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday proposed to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress come forward to offer a “new deal” to women to ensure equality and adequate legislative representation, responding to the latter’s suggestion to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the women’s reservation bill be passed in Parliament’s monsoon session

“As part of the ‘new deal’, we should approve, in both houses of Parliament, the women reservation bill, the law prohibiting triple talaq and imposing penal consequences on those who violate the law, and the law prohibiting nikah halala,” Prasad wrote to the Congress president.

“You will appreciate that the latter two not only give the women of the Muslim community an unequal treatment but also seriously compromise their dignity,” Prasad wrote to Gandhi.

A bill abolishing the practice of instant triple talaq, passed by the Lok Sabha, is pending in the Rajya Sabha. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 criminalises the practice of instant triple talaq, or talaq-e-biddat, which allows a man to divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq thrice; it imposes a prison term of up to three years on husbands who violate the law. Nikah halala is a practice under which a man cannot remarry his former wife without her having to go through the process of (temporarily) marrying someone else, consummating the marriage, getting divorced and observing a three-month separation period.

The Congress and some other parties have expressed reservations on the triple talaq bill, and the ruling BJP has accused them of trying to stall it.

Gandhi wrote to Modi on Monday, urging him to ensure passage of the women’s reservation bill in the monsoon session, which begins on Wednesday.

Prasad said the prime minister forwarded to him Gandhi’s letter, and he was the ‘competent authority’ to reply, as the ministry of law and justice deals with the subject matter of the Constitution amendment relating to reservation of seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies.

Prasad said the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first proposed one-third reservation for women, but could not pass a law to this effect for want of a consensus in Parliament. He also rued that despite BJP’s “firm support” to the bill, the UPA government under Manmohan Singh did not make an effort to have the bill passed in the Lok Sabha, after it was cleared by the upper house.

Prasad welcomed Gandhi’s initiative, but asked why the Congress-led UPA government did not take it up for three years during its second term.

The government would also like to know whether all allies of the Congress would support the bill, Prasad asked. Several parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the RJD had opposed passage of the bill without provision for a sub-quota for minorities and other backward classes within the reservation for women

“As national parties, we cannot have two set of standards in dealing with women and their rights,” Prasad wrote in his reply to Gandhi. “We are already too late in conferring the right of adequate representation, equality in personal laws and doing away with such provisions which compromise with women’s dignity.”

Prasad also raised the issue of constitutional status to the national commission on backward classes, calling the proposed legislation a “bill of significant social importance”.

The Lok Sabha cleared a related constitution amendment bill last year, but the Rajya Sabha returned it to the lower house with certain amendments. “It also deserves your party’s unqualified support for assured passage. The government would be eagerly awaiting for your response,” Prasad wrote.

Reacting to Ravi Shankar’s letter, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said: “Ravi Shankar Prasad should stop playing hide and seek on the issue of women reservation bill and should commit to its passage.”

First Published: Jul 17, 2018 23:32 IST