New Delhi: In a major setback to the Opposition, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the RTI Amendment Bill. The Upper House also voted against sending the bill to a select panel.

The Opposition had demanded a scrutiny of the bill and the Congress staged a walkout claiming that the government was bullying.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, which was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, was also passed. The bill, which makes instant triple talaq a cognizable offence, replaces the ordinance promulgated in February.

As per the bill, a person giving instant triple talaq will attract three years imprisonment and the offence will be cognizable if the information is given by the married woman against whom talaq has been declared or any person related to her by blood or marriage.

The magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The woman who has been given instant triple talaq is entitled for subsistence. At the end of voting, 303 MPs voted in favour of the bill while just 82 voted against it.

Earlier, introducing the bill, Ravi Shankar Prasad had said, “There are demands that bring a law against mob lynchings, Isn’t there a section on murder, on the conspiracy? Isn’t the court punishing in cases of mob lynchings? If incidents of mob lynchings are taking place, then action is also being taken.”

He said, “After a woman takes a legal recourse, the marriage will subsist and the husband will have to pay the subsistence amount.

On AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s question why the law was a non-bailable offence, Prasad said, “If we provide bail in the law, the husband can go scot-free when he says he hasn’t given triple talaq.”

Owaisi also said that the woman should have the right to leave the marriage. “Will the husband give maintenance from jail? Why should the woman remain married to the husband who’s in jail?” he asked.

BJP MP Kirron Kher asked Congress why triple talaq was not banned during their governance. She said, “Women face several issues in a marriage and hence Muslim women took a legal recourse through the Supreme Court. This bill has nothing to do with religion. It is about women.”

Meanwhile, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that the crime was the desertion of wife without taking her responsibilty. “Why is a law criminalising Muslim husbands?” he asked.

Replying to Ravi Shankar Prasad on Congress passing all other marriage laws in the past, Tharoor said, “Those acts were not illegal until we passed a law, this has already been made illegal by the Supreme Court.”

On why triple talaq has been made a penal offence, Prasad said there are times a deterrence is required under the law. “Be it bigamy or polygamy, all these have been removed.”

The debate on RTI Amendment bill also saw heated arguments. Nominated member Swapan Dasgupta in Rajya Sabha said, “RTI is a victim of unintended consequences. It was set up with a certain nobility of purpose – to make government transparent and to allow citizens access to the process of decision-making. And it has served its purpose largely. But at the same time, it has also been hijacked to a very large extent by the people called activists. I think every one of us knows this is the truth but refused to accept it.”

Congress’ Abhishek Manu Singhvi opposed the bill in Rajya Sabha and said, “The Government is scared to give some independence to RTI. If you make this amendment, you’re going to downgrade the institution and control it.”