According to the Indian Express, the two controversial bills couldn’t be passed by the Rajya Sabha in the Budget session, the last Parliament session of the outgoing government. The term of the present Lok Sabha was to end on June 3, but with the election process over, President Ram Nath Kovind dissolved the lower house on Saturday.
Both the bills were opposed by the non-BJP parties in the Rajya Sabha, where the then Narendra Modi-led BJP government lacked majority.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provided for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who came to India before December 31, 2014, after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the current norm, even if they do not possess any document. The critics alleged that this bill was another tactic by the right-wing Hindutva party, BJP, to further other the Muslims and move towards its goal of a ‘Hindu rashtra’.
This bill was also strongly opposed by Assam and other northeastern states on the grounds that an easy entry of Hindus from the neighbouring nations would destroy their cultural hegemony. They even claimed that this bill was against the Assam Accord, 1985, as per which any foreigner (from Bangladesh or elsewhere) – Hindu or Muslim – who entered the state after March 24, 1971, would have to be detected and deported to their country of origin.
This controversial legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session on January 8 but could not be cleared by the upper house.
Even the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill, which made the practice of instant triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years imprisonment with a fine, was challenged by the opposition parties on the grounds that criminalization of the act of divorce with a jail term for the husband could be legally untenable. Some critics and activists even raised apprehensions that if the husband is put behind the bars, the wife would be left helpless with no source of maintenance. Some other sections demanded the decriminalization of triple talaq by making it only a civil offence and in line with the way divorce is dealt with in general in India.
An ordinance for this was issued in September 2018 and later a bill was introduced which was cleared by the Lok Sabha in December but was pending in Rajya Sabha. Since the Bill could not get parliamentary approval, a fresh ordinance was issued in January, 2019.
With an unexpected landslide victory of the BJP government in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, there is a high probability that these two bills will be taken up as soon as the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha commences. Until then, the lapse can be a much needed relief!