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The recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament, especially in the Lok Sabha, was a rather eventful one, with the government giving the green signal to a number of Bills that could have a significant impact on society.
A number of these Bills, or more specifically, some provisions therein have sparked debate across the country, and have even been challenged in courts.
While the Upper House is yet to deliberate upon a majority of these Bills, the Lok Sabha passed as many as thirteen Bills, capping a productive Winter Session.
In this article, we offer a glimpse into ten Bills that were passed in the Lok Sabha over the past month or so.
Arguably the legislation that has caught the most attention, this law – which has now been passed in both Houses of Parliament – aims to introduce a ten per cent reservation for economically weaker sections of society.
Article 15 of the Constitution is sought to be amended to provide reservations to economically weaker sections for admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30. This reservation is capped at ten percent.
Apart from this, Article 16 is sought to be amended to provide reservations to people from economically weaker sections in government posts.
The Bill has been criticized for having been passed without due deliberation in both Houses. In fact, a challenge to the proposed legislation has already been filed in the Supreme Court.
Just yesterday, the Bill, after being passed in both Houses, received Presidential assent to become the The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019.
After the Centre’s controversial Ordinance lapsed, it brought in this Bill, which aims to criminalize the practice of Triple Talaq. A carbon copy of the Ordinance, the Bill deems any pronouncement of Talaq by a person upon his wife by any manner whatsoever, void and illegal. Section 4 invites a prison sentence for a Muslim husband who indulges in the practice, that could go up to three years, as well as a fine.
The offence is also a cognizable one, if information relating to the offence is given by the married woman (against whom Talaq has been declared), or any person related to her by blood or marriage. The offence may be compoundable at the instance of the married woman.
Though the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, it was met with staunch opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and was eventually sent to a Select Committee. Subsequently, the Centre sought to re-promulgate the Ordinance, a move that was approved by the President of India.
After the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Aadhaar Act while striking down some provisions through its judgment passed last year, the Centre has introduced this Bill, which purportedly aims to address concerns regarding the Scheme.
Among other changes, the Bill envisions enhanced penalties for entities found to be in breach of the safeguards specified in the Act, gives minors enrolled under the Scheme the option to cancel their Aadhaar number upon turning eighteen, and provides that the Telecom Disputes Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) will hear appeals against decisions of the Adjudicating Officer under the Act.
Through the introduction of a new Section 33A, the Bill aims to punish entities failing to comply with provisions of the Act with civil penalties that may amount to a fine of one crore rupees for each contravention.
However, the Bill has been criticised for circumventing the Supreme Court’s judgment, specifically on the issue of surveillance.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
It has drawn a fair amount of criticism for making illegal migrants citizens of India on the basis of religion; the Muslim community has been omitted from those who are eligible for the same. The Bill has sparked protests in Assam and other North-Eastern states, and has even led to the resignation of three ministers.
The Bill provides a definition of “transgender”, which has not been met with too much enthusiasm from the community.
In line with the Supreme Court judgment stating that transgender persons have the right to self-determination, the Bill states that a person recognised as transgender would have the right to ‘self-perceived’ gender identity. However, it does not provide for the enforcement of such a right. A District Screening Committee would issue a certificate of identity to recognise transgender persons.
It prevents discrimination or unfair treatment of transgender persons with respect to educational establishments, employment, healthcare services, access to facilities, and rent or purchase of property, among others. It also criminalises compelling transgender persons to indulge in begging, denying them access to public spaces, and endangering their life and safety.
On January 7, the Lok Sabha passed this Bill, which aims to omit leprosy as a ground for divorce from various Acts governing marriage in India.
The legislations so amended by the Bill include the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
Recently, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the Central and State governments in order to spread awareness about leprosy and to facilitate a life of equality and dignity for those affected by the disease.
This Bill regulates the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in respect of criminal and civil matters. It provides for the setting up of a National DNA Data Bank and regional banks. Section 3 provides for a DNA Regulatory Board which has been tasked with accrediting laboratories that analyse DNA samples.
Section 21 of the Bill provides that written consent is required from individuals in order to collect DNA samples from them. Such consent is not required with respect to offences punishable with more than seven years of imprisonment. While consent is mandatory for criminal investigations, the Bill is silent on the aspect of such consent in civil matters.
The DNA profile of a suspect in a criminal investigation can be removed from the data banks on the basis of a written request by the individual.
The Bill provides for regulation and registration of surrogacy clinics. It also states that written consent of the surrogate mother is required, and that a child born through surrogacy cannot be abandoned, for any reason whatsoever.
A National Surrogacy Board is purported to be put in place for advising the Centre on policy related to surrogacy, to review the implementation of the Act, and to oversee the performance of bodies under the Act.
The Bill envisions strict penalties for the offences of commercial surrogacy and advertisement, among others; the penalty for the same is up to ten years’ imprisonment and up to Rs. 10 lakh fine. Offences under the Bill are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
It is further provided that no woman other than an “ever married woman having a child of her own and between the age of 25 to 35 years on the day of implantation”, shall be a surrogate mother. Only close relatives of the intending couple are allowed to be surrogate mothers.
Passed by the Lok Sabha last month, the Bill addresses the growth of e-commerce, provides for the setting up of a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), targets false or misleading advertisements, and introduces product liability for the manufacturer, among others.
On a complaint being made of a false advertisement, and the same being proved, the CCPA can slap a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh. Repeated violations may attract a penalty of up to Rs 50 lakh and a ban on appearance/exhibition up to three years.
Further, the pecuniary jurisdiction of Consumer Fora has been modified as follows:
District Commissions: complaints valued up to Rs 1 crore
State Commissions: complaints valued between Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 crore
National Commission: complaints valued at Rs 10 crore and above
The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) to conduct arbitration, mediation, and conciliation proceedings. The Bill declares the NDIAC as an institution of national importance.
Aimed at making India a hub for international arbitration, the Bill was introduced with the purpose of “creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration and for acquisition and transfer of undertakings of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution” and to vest such undertakings in the NDIAC.