Here is a recap of key legislative exercises of Parliament in 2019.
16th Lok Sabha Session
The first phase was comprised by latter days of winter session of the 16th Lok Sabha, which concluded on January 9. The second phase was the budget session, held between January 31 and February 13.
During this duration, two important legislations were passed, being:
1. Constitution Amendment to provide reservation to "Economically Weaker Sections" of society
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on January 9, the last day of the winter session. It came into force on January 14.
The Act provides reservation of up to 10% to general category candidates belonging to "economically weaker sections", in educational institutions and public employment, by amending Article 15 of the Constitution.
It stipulates that general category candidates belonging to families having income less than Rs. 8 lakh and qualifying other indicators of economic disadvantage, such as property ownership, etc., may avail the benefit of such reservation. Such reservation does not apply to minority educational institutions.
The Act has been under the judicial scanner after PILs challenging it were filed before the Supreme Court. The Act has also been challenged before the Madras High Court.
Click here to read the Act.
Click here to read instructions for implementation of EWS quota in services
2. Bill to remove Leprosy as a ground for Divorce
The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was cleared by the Parliament on February 13 and it came into force on February 21, to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce.
To this end, it amends five Acts: (i) the Divorce Act, 1869, (ii) the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, (iii) the Special Marriage Act, 1954, (iv) the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and (v) the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
17th Lok Sabha Session
The next two phases were Monsoon and Winter Session of the 17th Lok Sabha.
The Monsoon Session was held between June 17 and August 7 whereby the Modi government 2.0 passed the highest number of bills in 10 years. Similarly, the Winter Session was held between November 18 and December 13 and it witnessed 111% productivity in the Lok Sabha and 92% productivity in the Rajya Sabha.
The key legislations that were passed are:
1. Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019
The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955, was passed during the Winter Session of Parliament on December 10.
The Bill seeks to relax conditions for acquiring citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It provides that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains and Christians who migrated to India without travel documents from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014 will not be regarded as illegal migrants, if they establish their residency in India for five years instead of existing eleven years.
Ever since its introduction, the Bill has faced backlash in the form of protests and public furore. It has been challenged in the Supreme Court and is likely to be taken up in mid-January.
Click here to read the Bill.
A critical comment on the bill may be read here.
Click here to read petition filed in Supreme Court seeking implementation of the Bill and action against protestors.
2. Bill To Bifurcate Jammu & Kashmir into Union Territories Of J&K And Ladakh
The Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganization) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament during its Monsoon Session. It came into force on October 31, thereby splitting the state of J&K into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. Both the UTs have been put under President's administration through a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by him.
The Act repeals 153 state laws and contains a schedule of 106 central laws that now apply to the UTs. In addition, 166 state laws will remain in force, and seven laws will be applicable with amendments. These amendments include eliminating prohibitions on lease of land to persons who are not permanent residents of J&K.
Further, the High Court of J&K will now become the common high court for both the UTs. Click here to read the salient features of the Act.
The Bill however did not go down well with the citizens and has been put to challenge before a constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
A critical comment on the Act may be read here.
Click here to read on other states having special provisions under the Constitution.
3. Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019
The Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on August 5, during its monsoon session, and by the Rajya Sabha on November 26, during the winter session. It is aimed at protecting the rights of transgender persons by granting them recognition and making welfare provisions for them.
It prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to: (i) education; (ii) employment; (iii) healthcare; (iv) access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public; (v) right to movement; (vi) right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property; (vii) opportunity to hold public or private office; and (viii) access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is.
It further criminalizes denial of use of public places to transgenders, removal of transgenders from household and village, etc.
To read detailed provisions of the Bill, including provisions relating to grant of Transgender Certificate, penalties for discrimination, etc., click here.
Click here to read a critical comment on the Bill.
4. Bill To Penalize Triple Talaq: Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019
Passing of the aforementioned bill has made all declarations pertaining to instant triple talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void and illegal.
The bill was passed during the Monsoon Session on July 30 and was notified by the Central government on August 1, making declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years' imprisonment with a fine.
Notably, the offence will be cognizable only if the information is given by the woman, against whom talaq had been declared, herself or by any person related to her by blood or marriage. To read the Act, click here.
Click here to read a critical comment on the Act.
The Bill has been challenged before the Supreme Court on the touchstone of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
5. Bill To Slash Corporate Tax Rates
The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, to slash corporate tax rate was passed during the Winter Session by the Lok Sabha on December 2. Being a money Bill, it was returned by the Rajya Sabha on December 5.
The Bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the Central govt. in this regard on September 20, with certain variations.
It provides domestic companies with an option to pay income tax at the rate of 22%, instead of the present 30%, provided they do not claim certain deductions under the IT Act. Further, it provides new domestic manufacturing companies with an option to pay income tax at the rate of 15%, provided they do not claim the deductions specified above. These new companies must be set up and registered after September 30, 2019 and should start manufacturing before April 1, 2023.
Click here to read detailed provisions of the Bill, entailing proposed tax structure.
6. Amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 received clearance from the Parliament on July 31 and came into force on September 1. The Amendment Act modifies the policies entailed in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 on the subject road transport & safety and licensing & registration process.
It has also altered compensation for road accident victims. The compensation payable to victims in hit and run cases has been enhanced to Rs. 2 lakhs in case of death, and Rs. 50,000/- in case of bodily injury from Rs.25,000/- and Rs.12,500/- respectively.
The Amendment Act has also introduced Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which will be collected by a special cess. To read further on provisions pertaining to driving refresher training course, compounding of traffic offences, etc., click here.
7. UAPA Amendment Bill Which Gives Power To Centre To Designate An Individual As Terrorist
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed during the Monsoon Session on July 24 and was notified by the Central Government on August 8. It amends the existing Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, in terms investigation and prosecution of offences relating to terrorism. Under the provisions herein, the central government may designate an organization as a terrorist organization if it:
Click here to read more on the penalties and remedies entailed in the Act.
The Act has been challenged before the Supreme Court for being violative of Article 14, 19(1)(a), 21 of the Constitution.
A critical comment on the Act can be read here.
8. Bill To Expand Powers Of NIA
The Parliament passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on July 17 and it came into force on August 2.
The Act which amends the provisions of the existing National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 with respect to jurisdiction and offences that can be investigated by the NIA. It allows the agency to probe terrorist activities against Indians and Indian interests abroad, cyber crimes and cases of human trafficking. It further prescribes constitution of Special Courts for trial of scheduled offences.
Click here to read critical comment on the Act.
Other Bills Passed During Monsoon Session
1. The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019
The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 received Presidential assent on August 10, to amend Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956, thereby increasing the number of judges in the Supreme Court to 34 from 31, including the CJI.
The amendment has been made pursuant to the CJI's request to the Prime Minister, whereby it was intimated that inadequate strength of judges was the primary reasons for backlog of cases in the Supreme Court. To further understand the objects and reasons of the Act, click here.
2. Bill For Summary Eviction Of Unauthorized Occupants From Public Premises
The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 was cleared by the Parliament on August 6, laying down procedure for summary eviction of unauthorized occupants from government accommodation.
This bill was introduced to evict employees, MPs and other dignitaries of government of India, who were no more in service or whose office on license had expired and were staying in government accommodation without authorization. The legislation also confers powers upon the estate officers to evict such unauthorized occupants from "public premises" in a smooth, speedy and time-bound manner.
4. Consumer Protection Bill, 2019
The new legislation on consumer protection will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This bill was passed with a view to strengthen consumer rights, considering the modern day challenges like e-commerce, direct selling, tele-marketing etc. It provides a range of remedies from class action suits to liability for celebrity endorsements. It also aims to establish a national level regulator, Central Consumer Protection Authority, to deal with consumer complaints proactively.
The bill was cleared by the Parliament on August 6 and was notified by the Central Government on August 9. It will come into force on such date as the Central Government may so notify. To read more on the procedure and penalties, click here.
Click here to read an analysis of the bill.
5. Code On Wages For Workers
The Code on Wages, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on August 2 and was notified on August 23. It replaces the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. The Code seeks to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments where any industry, trade, business, or manufacturing is carried out.
The wage-related decisions pertaining to railways, mines, and oil fields, etc. shall be taken by the central government. The state government shall be entitled to take decisions for all other employments.
Read the detailed provisions a propos Work Hours, Bonus, Deductions, etc., here.
6. Amendments to POCSO For Stricter Punishments For Child Sex Abuse
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on August 1 to provide stricter punishments for sexual abuse of children. It amends the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
The Amendment Act provides that in case penetrative sexual assault is committed by a police officer, a member of the armed forces, a public servant minimum or a relative of the child, the minimum punishment for the offence will be twenty years as opposed to the current ten years. And the maximum punishment will be death penalty. As regards penetrative sexual assault committed by persons other than those mentioned above, the minimum punishment has been increased from seven years to ten years. To read the bill, click here.
To read a critical analysis, click here.
8. Bill to abolish Medical Council
The National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 29 and by the Rajya Sabha on August 1 to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and replace the Medical Council of India with the National Medical Commission.
It provides procedure for grant of license to anyone who is "connected with modern scientific medical profession" to practice in primary and preventive healthcare establishments, in order to tackle the acute shortage of doctors in rural areas. Click here to read more on this bill.
9. Insolvency And Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019
This bill, as passed by the Parliament on August 1 and notified by the government on August 17, amends the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. It has increased the time period for completing insolvency resolution process from 270 days to 330 days.
The main aim of this bill was to clarify that secured financial creditors enjoyed preference over operational creditors in distribution of assets of the corporate debtor, in light of the recent ruling of NCLAT in Essar Steel case which granted operational creditors equal status as lenders in the distribution of the bid amount of resolution plan. Click here to read the bill.
10. Bill to amend Companies Act, 2013
The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was cleared by the Lok Sabha on July 26 and by the Rajya Sabha on July 30 to re-categorize certain compoundable offences as civil defaults and transfers some approval powers from NCLT to central government.
It amends Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 and provides that if there remain unspent funds of CSR, the company must disclose the reasons of non-spending in their annual report. Further, unless the unspent amount relates to any ongoing project, it must be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act (e.g. PM Relief Fund) within six months of the financial year.
Click here to read more on how the bill seeks to keep a "check of shell companies" and will promote "ease of doing business in India".
11. Bill to amend the RTI Act, 2005
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on July 25 to amend the term, salaries, and conditions of service of RTI Commissioners mentioned in the Right to Information Act, 2005, subject to the executive rules to be made by the government.
It intends to get rid of the anomaly created by the original statute by equating the statutory body of Information Commission with a constitutional body like Election Commission. Click here to get a detailed read on the amendments.
Read the views of MP J. Ramesh on the bill here.
Read the views of Dr. Shashi Tharoor on the bill here.
The constitutional validity of the Bill has been challenged before the Kerala High Court.
12. Aadhaar Amendment Bill
The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has amended the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016, to introduce offline verification of Aadhaar. By virtue of this legislation, an individual may use his/her Aadhaar number, voluntarily, to establish identity for telecom and bank related KYC purposes.
The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 4 and by the Rajya Sabha on July 8 and can be read here.
Click here to read critical comment on the Bill.
13. Bill allowing Trusts To Open Units In SEZs
The Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on June 27 to amend the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005. It adds a trust and any other entity which may be notified by the central government to the definition of a 'person'.
This amendment will allow trusts to seek establishment of units in SEZs. To read the bill, click here.
14. Bill To Provide Institution-Wise Reservation For Teaching Posts
Rajya Sabha passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers' Cadre) Bill, 2019 on July 3 after Lok Sabha cleared it on July 1. The bill provides reservation to candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, socially and educationally backward classes and economically weaker sections of the society for teaching positions in central educational institutions. The bill however excludes institutions mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill.
The bill is intended to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court's decision holding that reservation in teaching posts should be applied subject-wise. Click here to read more about the bill.
Other Bills Passed During Winter Session
1. Bill To Merge UTs Of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, & Daman & Diu
This Bill proposes to merge the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which presently has only one district with the UT of Daman and Diu, which has two districts, to ease administration and save State exchequer.
The merged UT will be named as the "Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu". Further, when the Bill comes into force, the assets and liabilities of both the UTs will stand merged and will belong to the new territory. Further, it will be allocated two seats in the Lok Sabha. Furthermore, jurisdiction of the High Court of Bombay will continue to extend to the proposed UT.
It was cleared by the by the Lok Sabha on November 27 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 3. Read the detailed provisions of the Bill and the Statement of Objects here.
2. Arms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The Rajya Sabha on December 10 passed the Arms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to amend the Arms Act 1959. It was earlier cleared by the Lok Sabha on December 9.
The Bill proposes to amend the Arms Act, 1959 to criminalize and punish acts of "tracking arms and their components from manufacturers to end users", "organised crime", "negligent use of firearm", etc. It also lowers down the number of valid arms licenses that can be held by an individual at a time from three to one.
Click here to read more on the penalties entailed in the Bill.
3. Bill To Limit SPG Protection To Prime Minister & Immediate Family Of PM
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the provisions of the Special Protections Group Act, 1988, which provides for constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG).
It stipulates that SPG will provide security to the PM and members of his immediate family 'residing with him at his official residence' only. It also prescribes SPG security to any former PMs and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him, for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office.
It was cleared by the Lok Sabha on November 27 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 3. Click here to read detailed provisions of the Bill.
4. Bill To Ban E-Cigarettes
The Prohibition Of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage And Advertisement) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha on November 27 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 2. It will replace the ordinance promulgated by the Centre in that behalf on 18 September.
The Bill stipulates that persons found in violation of the law for the first time will face a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both. For subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years and fine upto Rs 5 lakh.
It further punishes storage of e-cigarettes with imprisonment up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 50,000, or both. Once the Bill comes into force, the owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes will have to declare and deposit these stocks at the nearest office of an authorized officer.
Click here to read more on this Bill.
5. Bill To Grant Ownership Rights To People Living In Unauthorised Colonies In Delhi
The NCT of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha on November 28 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 4.
It seeks to provide a framework to recognize the property rights of persons living in unauthorized colonies in Delhi; by granting rights of ownership or transfer or mortgage on the basis of Power of Attorney, Agreement to Sale, Will, possession letter or any other document evidencing payment of consideration.
Read salient features of the Bill here.
6. Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019
This Bill aims to facilitate the orderly growth of the chit fund sector and enable greater financial access to people by amending the Chit Funds Act, 1982. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on November 20 and by the Rajya Sabha on November 28.
The Bill recognizes chit funds under various names, including kuri, fraternity fund, rotating savings, credit institution, etc. It proposes to increase the maximum amount of chit funds which may be collected by (i) Individuals: from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh; and by (ii) Firms: from Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 18 lakh.
To read further amendments and other salient features of the Bill, click here.
7. National Institute of Design (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The Bill was first introduced during the Monsoon session of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha and was passed on August 6. The Lok Sabha cleared the Bill in this session on November 26.
The Bill seeks to amend the National Institute of Design Act, 2014, which declares the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad as an institution of national importance and proposes to declare National Institutes of Design in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and Haryana as institutions of national importance. Presently, these institutes are registered as Societies and do not have the power to grant degrees or diplomas. On being declared institutions of national importance, they will be granted the power to grant degrees and diplomas.
8. Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019
This Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 3 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 9, to restrict the use of hazardous material on ships and to regulate the recycling of ships by establishing a National Authority.
The Bill is an outcome of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009, to which India is a signatory. It will apply to: (i) any new or existing ship which is registered in India, (ii) ships entering a port or terminal in India, or the territorial waters of India, (iii) any warship, or other ship owned and operated by an administration and used on government non-commercial service, and (iv) ship recycling facilities operating in India.
To read salient features of the Bill, click here.
9. Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019
This Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on August 5 during the Monsoon Session however the Rajya Sabha referred the Bill to the Select Committee for further deliberation in this session, on November 21.
In its present shape, the Bill allows altruistic surrogacy, a selfless arrangement where only medical expenses and insurance cover are provided to the surrogate mother, and there's no room for any other monetary reward. The bill also, by virtue of Section 4, allows surrogacy in cases of proven infertility. The provision also prohibits surrogacy for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation.
It prescribes five years waiting period prescribed for a couple to avail surrogacy measures and allows only close relatives of a person to be a surrogate mother.
Click here to read other salient features of the Bill, including provisions relating to eligibility to undertake surrogacy, eligibility of surrogate mother, protection of surrogate child, offences and penalties, etc.