Winter Session of the Parliament: Snapshot of the Legislative Agenda
The winter session of the Indian Parliament begins today. The legislative agenda includes 19 Bills currently pending in Parliament for consideration and passage. 14 new Bills are proposed to be introduced. Out of these one will also be taken up for consideration and passing.
Two Bills will be withdrawn. These are The Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill, 2013 and The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 1992.
The Bills listed for consideration and passing are:
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha in May this year. It aims to tax both services and goods, with goods to be taxed by Centre and services to be taxed by States. GST will also subsume services tax, excise duties, stamp duties, entry tax and central sales tax.
The Government had not faced any hurdles in getting the Bill passed as Congress staged a walk out and BJD and CPI (M) voted in favour of the Bill. Only AIADMK voted against the Bill with its 37 votes. The ease was dubbed as a ray of hope for its passage in the Upper House, where the Government does not enjoy majority. Being a Constitution Amendment Bill, it is required to be passed by both the houses with the 2/3rd majority.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister gave its approval to the Bill in April this year. The recommendations of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Urban Development and suggestions of various stakeholders (consumer organizations, industry associations, academia, experts etc.) were included after extensive consultations.
The Bill establishes State level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities, to regulate transactions between buyers and promoters of residential real estate projects. For appeals from these Regulatory Authorities, it establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals.
Essential features of the Bill available here.
The Bill seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, places obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and creates mechanisms for redressing their complaints.
It goes a step ahead to prohibit discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them. It proposes imprisonment and fine for those spreading hatred and discrimination against HIV patients. It recommends monetary fine up to Rs 10,000 and also two years of imprisonment for those found guilty of spreading hatred against people affected by HIV/AIDS. It also says that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) will be provided to all patients by the government as long as possible.
This Bill repeals the Mental Health Act, 1987, as the Act does not adequately protect the rights of persons with mental illness nor promote their access to mental health care.
The Bill provides for the right to access mental healthcare and treatment from services run or funded by the government. The right to access mental health care includes affordable, good quality of and easy access to services. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care.
The Bill amends the Electricity Act, 2003. It seeks to segregate the distribution network business and the electricity supply business, and introduce multiple supply licensees in the market.
In May this year, the Union Cabinet gave its approval to official amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012. The Bill seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits employing children as labor in 18 occupations and 65 processes.
The Bill adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The Bill prohibits employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
You may read: Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012: A Critique by Sourya Banerjee
The Bill amends the High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954 and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958. The Union Cabinet had approved the proposal to amend the Act in August this year.
It states that 10 years will be added from April 2004 to the service of a Judge, for the purpose of providing pension. This would be applicable to a judge who has been an advocate of a High Court for at least 10 years. This is pursuant to a ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of P. Ramakrishnam Raju v. Union of India & Ors. You may read more about the case here.
The Bill enables the creation of commercial divisions in high courts, and commercial courts at the district level.
The Law Commission of India, in the beginning of the year, had submitted its 253rd report to the Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda. In its report, the Commission has suggested setting up of Courts to deal exclusively with commercial disputes. It has also suggested changes in the procedural law, i.e. the Civil Procedure Code. You may read the Report here. These recommendations were taken into consideration while the Union Cabinet approved the Bill in April.
Following this, the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee promulgated The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Ordinance, 2015 in October. Read full text of the Ordinance here.
Salient Features of the Bill can be accessed here.
The Bill amends the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It defines criminal misconduct to cover only misappropriation of property and possession of disproportionate assets.
The Bill modifies the definitions and penalties for offences related to taking a bribe, being a habitual offender and abetting an offence. Powers and procedures for the attachment and forfeiture of property of public servants accused of corruption have been introduced.
Salient features of the Bill can be accessed here.
The Bill seeks to repeal The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and give effect to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, 1970 and its Protocol Supplementary, signed on September 10, 2010.
The Bill includes several acts within the definition of hijacking including: (i) attempt and abetment of hijacking; (ii) making a credible threat to commit hijacking; (iii) organizing or directing others to commit hijacking; (iv) agreeing with another to commit the offence, and acting on the agreement; etc. It makes hijacking and the related offences shall be extraditable.
The Bill seeks to repeal 295 Acts and make minor amendments to the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the Governors (Emoluments, Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Act, 2014.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha amid boycott of the house by opposition parties. It replaces the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014 and seeks to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
In addition to the offences listed in the Act, new offences have been added viz. Offences related to Dignity –Offences, atrocities against women ,land and housing, franchise and untouchability in public sphere. So garlanding with footwear, compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or do manual scavenging, abusing SCs or STs by caste name in public, attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs or STs or disrespecting any deceased person held in high esteem, and imposing or threatening a social or economic boycott are offences under the amended Act.
The Bill amends the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 which seeks to establish “a mechanism to receive complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption or willful misuse of power or willful misuse of discretion against any public servant and to inquire or cause an inquiry into such disclosure and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”
The amendments were approved by the Cabinet in May this year. The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information. These categories include information related to (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.
The Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The amendments were approved by the Union Cabinet in April this year.
The demands for amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (56 of 2000) (JJ Act) have been in the alley for a while now. The protest began in the wake of the brutal Delhi Gang-rape incident, wherein the juvenile who as described as the vilest of the accused, was awarded three year imprisonment, the maximum tenure prescribed under the JJ Act, in a correctional home. The terms of his release on December 15 are being deliberated, with the victim’s parents having approached the NHRC and the Delhi Police thinking of charging him under the National Security Act.
According to the Bill, if children between 16 and 18 years are accused of crimes under IPC sections 302 (murder), 326A (acid attack), 376 (rape and sexual assault), 376A (rape resulting in death or vegetative state) and 376D (intercourse by management or staff of an institution), the Juvenile Justice Board will have the power to transfer such cases to a regular court to be tried under the Indian Penal Code. In such cases, the juvenile will be treated as adults. However, even in a regular court, no juvenile found guilty of a heinous crime can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
You may read: Why you should oppose the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 by Prof. Ved Kumari
The Bill seeks to repeal 758 Appropriation Acts.
The Bill amends the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act, 2006. It seeks to increase the allowance for investment in plants and machinery in micro, small and medium enterprises.
The Bill replaces the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which establishes a Bureau for the purpose of standardization, marking and certification of articles and processes. The Bill seeks to broaden its ambit, and allow the central government to make it mandatory for certain notified goods, articles, processes, etc, to carry the standard mark.
The Bill amends the Carriage by Air Act, 1972. The Act regulates carriage by air and gives effect to the Warsaw Convention, 1929, the Warsaw Convention as amended by the Hague Protocol, 1955, and the Montreal Convention, 1999.
The Montreal Convention establishes airline liability in the case of death, injury or delay to passengers or in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo. The Convention also provides for reviewing the limits of liability of the air carriers every five years. The Bill seeks to amend the Act to adhere to the revised limits of liability.
The Bill simplifies the law relating to cheque bouncing and makes if convenient for payees if the cheque bounces. Clarifying the jurisdiction of Courts in case of a cheque being dishonored, it states:
- If the cheque is delivered for collection to the account of the payee (person who receives the cheque), the jurisdiction lies in the area of the bank branch where the payee maintains an account, or
- If the payee presents a cheque to a bank in any other way, the jurisdiction lies in the area of the bank branch where the drawer (person who writes the cheque) maintains an account.
It was in Dashrath Rupsingh Rathod vs. State of Maharashtra that a three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that a Complaint of Dis-honour of Cheque can be filed only to the Court within whose local jurisdiction the offence was committed, which in the present context is where the cheque is dishonoured by the bank on which it is drawn. The Court clarified that the Complainant is statutorily bound to comply with Section 177 etc. of the CrPC and therefore the place or situs where the Section 138 Complaint is to be filed is not of his choosing. Supreme Court in Dashrath Rupsingh Rathod Vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. Overruled the two Judge Bench Judgment in K. Bhaskaran v. Sankaran Vaidhyan Balan (1999) 7 SCC 510 wherein it was held that “the offence under Section 138 of the Act can be completed only with the concatenation of a number of acts.
Besides these Bills, The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015 will be introduced and has been listed for consideration and passing as well. The amendments to the Bill were approved by the Cabinet in August, taking into consideration the Law Commission’s recommendations, and suggestions received from stake holders. Salient features of the Bill available here.
The amendments mirror an earlier ordinance which had made arbitration time-bound and fee-bound. Lawyers and Judges had perceived the ordinance to be impractical. The Government had then refused to send the ordinance for the President’s assent. This had in turn affected investor confidence both at home and abroad. Read the LiveLaw story here.
The amendments seek to place a cap on the time as well as the arbitrator’s fee. An arbitrator will have to settle the case within 18 months. But after the completion of 12 months, certain restrictions have been put in place to ensure that the arbitration case does not linger on.
The President also promulgated the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 on October. Read full text of the Ordinance here.
The 246th Law Commission of India Report titled, ‘Amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996’, had earlier in August, suggested some major changes to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
The report had sought to find an appropriate path and balance between judicial intervention and judicial restraint.
It had also recommended a model schedule of fees and has empowered the High Court to frame appropriate rules for fixation of fees for arbitrators and for which purpose it may take the said model schedule of fees into account. Read the report and a list of all major suggestions here.
The new bills lined for introduction are:
The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2015
The Industries (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015
The Agricultural Bio-Security Bill, 2015,
The National Cooperative Development Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2015
The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Regional Centre for Bio-technology Bill, 2015
The Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2015
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2015
The National Commission for Women (NCW) Bill, 2015