On Wednesday, February 13, two important Bills, passed in the Lok Sabha and sent to the Rajya Sabha, were tabled after the former adjourned sine die or without a set date to reconvene.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018, informally known as the Triple Talaq Bill, lapsed in Parliament on the last day of the Budget session. Additionally, a report on the Rafale deal by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) was also tabled.
Why were these documents tabled?
News 18 says, “According to the Rajya Sabha Legislative Procedure, a Bill pending in the Upper House that has not been passed by the Lok Sabha does not lapse on the dissolution of the Lower House. But a Bill passed by Lok Sabha and pending in Rajya Sabha lapses on the dissolution of Lok Sabha.”
The House passed the two Bills and sent them to the Rajya Sabha but adjourned before the latter could take appropriate action. The Upper House was also unable to preside over CAG’s report. As the general elections near, these Bills will need to be re-introduced into the newly elected Lok Sabha.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016
The Citizenship (Amendement) Bill 2016 has been a highly contentious issue. Essentially, it “aims to provide citizenship to those who had been forced to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries”, namely religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. It also asks that the minimum years of residency required to qualify for citizenship be reduced to six from 11.
If passed, this 2016 Bill will undo a previous legislation that says any person who enters India without required documentation is an “illegal immigrant”.
Assam has experienced major unrest and conflict after this Bill was floated. Livemint reports Assamese organisations believe they will solely shoulder the financial and social burden of rehabilitating immigrants. Others have criticised the Bill for excluding Muslims and Jews.
The Triple Talaq Bill 2018
The Triple Talaq Bill was introduced to criminalise the practice of triple talaq, which allows a Muslim man to instantly and irrevocably divorce his wife by saying “talaq” three times. The Supreme Court has deemed this tradition unconstitutional.
Under this Bill, the practice will be prosecuted as a non-bailable offence punishable with a jail term of up to three years and a fine. It also says the wife is entitled to an allowance from her husband and can retain custody of her children.
Several major parties oppose the Bill—Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and others—on the grounds that it targets a religion and has been put together hastily without enough scrutiny.
Others have claimed that the government is only attempting to moderate its impression in the Muslim community but not sincerely tackle glaring issues, like mob lynchings and other forms of discrimination. However, supporters of the Bill believe that punishments outlined in it will act as effective deterrents for the practice and promote gender equality.
CAG report on Rafale deal
Titled “Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force”, the CAG report is an audit on the performance of acquisitions made by the Air Force, including 36 Rafale jets from France.
Scroll explains that the UPA government had been negotiating with France for years to buy 126 Rafale jets, most of which would’ve been built in India. However, in 2015, PM Modi discarded that plan and announced that India would purchase 36 jets built in France itself. The government declined to publicly provide pricing details of this new deal, but submitted documents on the process to the Supreme Court, which then said, “The government did not feel the need to go through the regular acquisition process.”
Due to the lack of transparency, the Congress has accused the NDA government of overpaying for the aircraft and committing fraud with public money. In a new twist, the CAG report has revealed that Modi’s deal is 2.8% cheaper than UPA’s and that the first 18 jets will be delivered faster than originally planned.
However, the Hindu reports that three senior Defence Ministry officials concluded that Modi’s deal was not made on “better terms” than the UPA’s and that the jets would actually be procured slower than the report claims. These irregularities have further convinced critics that the government is complicit in high-level financial fraud.
These three issues have created significant political tension and disagreement. But now that they have been tabled, the next Lok Sabha will be tasked with reintroducing them and continuing the debate.
Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius