Parliament Watch: Custodial deaths, Transgender shelter homes, separate Vidarbha State [Day 2 roundup]

Here is an overview of some important Parliament Questions raised by MPs during the second day of the Winter Session 2021.
Parliament Watch: Custodial deaths, Transgender shelter homes, separate Vidarbha State [Day 2 roundup]

The second day of the 2021 Winter Session of Parliament saw responses on issues ranging from custodial deaths, jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the demand for a separate State of Vidarbha, to name a few.

Here is an overview of some important Parliament Questions raised by Members of Parliament.

Custodial Deaths

Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi posed a question before the Lok Sabha on the total number of custodial deaths and whether efforts are being made to sensitize police officers on handling prisoners. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs mentioned that the Central government does not intervene directly in matters of custodial deaths, since Police and Public Order are State subjects as per the VII Schedule of the Constitution.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued guidelines and also organized workshops/seminars to sensitize officers from time to time, the reply stated. It was also added that 151 cases have been registered so far this year for instances of police custodial deaths.

The state-wise number of custodial deaths in the current year was laid down in an annexure to the reply as seen below.

State-wise custodial deaths in 2021
State-wise custodial deaths in 2021

Another question was raised before the Lok Sabha by MP Jagdambika Pal on whether there has been a rise in custodial violence/deaths in the country. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs replied that there is no increase in custodial deaths as per the reports received from the NHRC.

The response further stated that “during the last three years, a total of 19 cases of prison violence have been registered with NHRC and no death has resulted from the violence."

The annexures attached to the response show year-wise statistics of cases registered for police and judicial deaths in the last three years, as well as state-wise statistics of cases where NHRC recommended monetary compensation for custodial deaths.

Separate Vidarbha State

In a question posed by MP Ashok Nete before the Lok Sabha regarding the demand for a separate State of Vidarbha, the Union Minister of State responded that no such proposal is under consideration by the Central government.

The reply mentioned,

“Creation of a new State has wide ramifications and has a direct bearing on the federal polity of our country. Government takes a decision on the matter of formation of new States after taking into consideration all relevant factors, and only when there is a broad consensus on the issue.”

Shelter Homes for Transgenders

In a question raised by MP Chandra Prakash Joshi on the number of shelter homes being run in the country for transgender persons, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment A Narayanaswamy mentioned that 12 pilot shelter homes (Garima Greh) for transgender persons have been initiated. These are located in the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.

Further, the response stated that the Ministry has formulated a scheme called SMILE - Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise - which includes a sub-scheme called 'Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons,’ which aims to set up at least one Garima Greh in each state.

Jurisdiction of Border Security Force

A question was raised before the Lok Sabha as to whether the jurisdiction of the BSF in certain States including Punjab has been extended and whether consultation was sought before extension. The Union Minister of State responded that the 2014 notification has been amended to extend the jurisdiction of BSF in some states including Punjab and West Bengal via notification dated October 11, 2021.

The response stated that Punjab and West Bengal expressed apprehensions about the same but they are ill-founded.

“Section 139(1) (i) of the BSF Act, 1968 empowers the Central Government to confer powers and duties on members of the force in respect of any Central Acts for the purposes specified therein. The Government of West Bengal and Government of Punjab have expressed their apprehension that such a move encroaches upon the powers of the State Government. Their apprehensions are ill-founded. The extension of territorial jurisdiction of BSF would result in better and more effective control on trans-border crimes in conjunction and co-operation with State Police," the response said.

A question on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was also raised, to which the Ministry of External Affairs replied saying that persons covered under the CAA may apply for citizenship after the rules are notified.

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Total number of cases pending in NCLTs

A question was tabled before the Rajya Sabha on the total number of pending cases at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) over the last three years and whether the government has taken any steps to reduce the delays in disposal of cases.

The government replied that as on October 31, 2021, 13,512 cases were pending as per data provided by the NCLT. The number is higher compared to 2020 and 2019, during which the pending cases as on the last day of each year were 13,512 and 11,502 respectively.

In response to the strategies adopted to reduce pendency, it was stated,

"Five new Benches of NCLT have been announced during year 2018 and 2019 at Jaipur, Cuttack, Kochi, Indore and Amaravati. Vacant posts of Members in NCLT are being filled up regularly. Government has appointed 19 new Members in NCLT recently. For capacity building of Members, regular colloquiums are being held. e-Court Project is also being implemented by National Informatics Centre (NIC) for all the benches of NCLT."

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