125th Constitutional Amendment Bill

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The government has introduced the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Parliament to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the north-eastern region.

Features of the Amendment Bill

The salient features of the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill which will impact one crore tribal people in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are:

  • The amendments proposed provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grass-root level.
  • The amendment empowers the village councils to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
  • The amendment bill mandates the finance commission to recommend devolution of financial resources to these autonomous councils. The Autonomous Councils are dependent on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects.
  • The amendment bill also reserve one-third of the seats for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and

The bill to empower the Autonomous Councils was announced by the government last month in the backdrop of the protests in the North-East following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha.

Cinematograph Amendment Bill 2019

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The amendment bill aims to amend the Cinematograph Amendment act 1952.

The features of the amendment bill are:

  • The amendment bill makes film piracy offences punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fines that may extend to 10 lakh or both.
  • The amendment states that any person, who without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, uses any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film, or attempts to do so, or abet the making or transmission of such a copy, will be liable for such a punishment.
  • Section 7 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 deals with who can watch and exhibit which films and penalties for violating terms and conditions related to the exhibition of board-certified films.
  • The amendment bill adds a new subsection (4) to section 7 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 with the definition of piracy and the penal provisions for the same.

The Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2019 aims to tackle film piracy by including the penal provisions for unauthorised camcording and duplication of films. The bill when passed will build a credible deterrence which would increase industry revenues, boost job creation, fulfil important objectives of India’s National Intellectual Property policy and will give relief against piracy and infringing content online.

Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018

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Features of the Bill

The salient features of the bill are:

  • The Bill bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme.
  • The Bill ban unregulated deposit-taking activities altogether, by making them an offence. The existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework only comes into effect ex-post with considerable time lags;
  • The Bill creates three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
  • The Bill provides for severe punishment and heavy pecuniary fines to act as a deterrent.
  • The Bill provides for repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally.
  • The Bill provides for attachment of properties/assets by the Competent Authority, and subsequent realization of assets for repayment to depositors.
  • Timelines have been provided for attachment of property and restitution to depositors.
  • The Bill enables the creation of an online central database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country;
  • The Bill also defines “Deposit Taker” and “Deposit” comprehensively.

Definition of “Deposit Taker” and “Deposit” under the Bill

  • Deposit Takers include all possible entities (including individuals) receiving or soliciting deposits, except specific entities such as those incorporated by legislation;
  • Deposit is defined in such a manner that deposit-takers are restricted from camouflaging public deposits as receipts, and at the same time, not to curb or hinder acceptance of money by an establishment in the ordinary course of its business.

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018

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Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018

The 2018 amendment act was proposed to nullify the safeguards proposed by the Supreme Court. The amendments proposed were:

  • Investigating officer will not require the approval of any authority for the arrest of an accused.
  • Preliminary enquiry will not be required for the registration of a First Information Report against a person accused under the Act.
  • Persons accused of committing an offence under the Act cannot apply for anticipatory bail.
  • To avoid any ambiguity the act proposes that these provisions apply despite any judgments or orders of a court that provide otherwise. These amendments to the prevention of atrocities act were questioned in the Supreme Court as ultra vires.

Safeguards proposed by Supreme Court

Expressing concerns over the misuse of the various provisions under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Supreme Court had earlier proposed following safety mechanisms:

  • Provision of anticipatory bail.
  • Approval of Senior Superintendent of Police to arrest those accused under this act.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) to conduct a preliminary enquiry to find out whether there is a prima facie case under Act.

SC refused to stay amendments:

The Supreme Court has refused to stay the amendments to Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018.

Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

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The Lok Sabha has passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill aims to amend the Companies Act, 2013. The bill would replace the ordinance promulgated on November 2018.

Features of the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

The features of the bill are:

  • It provides for re-categorisation of offences. The bill re-categorises 16 offences including the issuance of shares at a discount, and failure to file an annual return as a civil offence.
  • The bill aims to remove the clause of imprisonment for officers for defaulting the rule which prohibits issuing shares at a discount, except in certain cases. Instead, the bill provides for a penalty equal to the amount raised by the issue of shares at a discount or five lakh rupees, whichever is lower.
  • The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid the value of shares agreed to be taken by him, and files a verification of its registered office address with the Registrar of Companies within 30 days of incorporation.
  • The Bill transfers the power to approve any changes in the financial year for a company associated with a foreign company and any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company to the central government from the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • The Bill provides that failure make a declaration of interest when a person holds the beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company may either be fined or imprisoned for up to one year or both.
  • The bill increases the ceiling up to which the regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to twenty-five lakhs from five lakh rupees.

The amendments are brought in as per the recommendations of a committee constituted to suggest changes to the Companies Act, 2013.

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

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The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill to set up a revamped International Arbitration Centre at New Delhi with an aim to make India the hub of arbitration.

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

The features of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill are:

  • The bill seeks to establish an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration and for acquisition and transfer of undertakings of the International Centre of Alternative Resolution.
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre will take over the undertakings of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR). The chief justice of India is the ex-officio chairperson of the ICADR.
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is being set up as per the recommendation of the Justice B N Srikrishna committee formed to identify the roadblocks in the development of institutional arbitration in India.
  • Justice B N Srikrishna committee had recommended that ICADR should be taken over with complete revamp of its governance structure to include only experts of repute who can lend credibility and respectability to the institution and be re-branded as a centre of national importance to highlight its character as a flagship arbitral institution.

The bill to establish, New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is part of the government efforts to develop the centre into a world-class arbitration centre and India as the hub of international arbitration.

Trade Union Act, 1926 Amendment Bill

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The amendment bill provides for inserting of section 10A in the Trade Union Act, 1926 to power centre and state governments to recognize trade unions and federation of trade unions at central as well as state level.

The amendment bill once passed by the parliament, the Ministry of Labour would issue rules and regulations prescribing the manner of recognition of these trade unions.

Benefits from the Proposed recognition to Trade Unions

The benefits of formal recognition to the trade unions are:

  • Ensure true representation of workers in the tripartite bodies in a transparent manner.
  • Check on the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the Government.
  • Reduce the duplicacy of such exercise by different departments.
  • The recognised trade unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level. This would aid in developing inclusive governance.

The Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 provided for only registration of trade unions and there was a long pending demand to grant recognition to trade unions. The amendment bill fulfils this long-standing demand.

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018

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The Parliament has given its approval for the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

What was the amendment proposed?

The features of the amendment proposed are:

  • The amendment bill does away with the no-detention policy mentioned in the law.
  • The amendment bill now leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to continue the no detention policy.
  • The states can choose to hold a regular examination either at the end of Classes 5 and 8, or both.
  • Students who fail this test will be provided with additional instructions and the opportunity to appear for a re-examination within two months of the declaration of the result.
  • If the student still does not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain the student.
  • If a state decides to continue with the no-detention policy till Class 8, the amendment bill makes it clear that no child can be expelled from school before they complete elementary education

No detention Policy

The features of the No detention policy are:

  • The no detention policy was introduced in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The act prohibited schools from detaining students till they complete elementary education.
  • The no detention policy banned the practice of making under-performing children repeat classes in elementary school to ensure they do not drop out.
  • The no detention policy was brought in to reduce the emphasis on year-end examinations and replace it with a form of evaluation that would track students’ progress through the year.

Why the no detention policy was withdrawn?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee had made the following observations:

  • The RTE act focused on the quantitative expansion of education. As a result, the quality aspects of teaching and learning were relegated to the backburner.
  • The committee noted that there was no pressure on the children to learn and on the teachers to teach.  Therefore, there was a need for policy change so as to improve the learning of children at elementary stage of education.
  • The NCERT’s National Achievement Survey and the ASER report consistently pointed towards the abysmally low learning levels among school children.

To address these anomalies, a decision was made to leave it to the states to decide on the no detention policy to address the issue of deteriorating quality of education.

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018

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The bill aims to provide legal backing for voluntary seeding of biometric Aadhaar ID for mobile SIM card and bank account authentication purposes.

Features of the Bill

The important features of the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 are:

  • The bill seeks to amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • The amendment permits children, who would turn 18 years old, to opt out of the system.
  • The amendments make sharing of Aadhaar details voluntary for opening bank accounts, school admissions and procuring mobile SIM cards.
  • The bill provides for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar.
  • The amendment bill ban storing of core biometric information as well as Aadhaar number by service providers in cases of individuals who have voluntarily offered the national ID as a means of authentication.
  • The bill makes it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it a bank account or a SIM card.
  • The bill lays down the procedure for offline verification of an Aadhaar number holder and confers enhanced regulator-like power on Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to give directions as it may consider necessary to any entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Why the amendments are proposed?

  • While upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court had held struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 that permitted private entities like telecom companies or other corporate to avail of the biometric Aadhaar data. 
  • Hence to address the issues like recognising the authentication of those who provided Aadhaar as the identity proof, the amendments are brought in by the government.

POSCO Act Amendment

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The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The amendments are proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Amendments Proposed

POSCO is a gender-neutral law protects both boys and girls under the age of 18. The amendments proposed are:

  • The amendments provide for stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault crime on a child, both boys and girls, below the age of 18.
  • The amendments extend the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault from a minimum of 10 years to a minimum of 20 years, up to a maximum of life imprisonment and even the death penalty.
  • The amendments are proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and disasters.
  • The amendment also proposes to alter the definition of sexual assault to include administering hormones to children expedite their sexual maturity for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

Why the amendments were proposed?

The Ministry of Women and Child Development cites the reports of rapes of young girls in the aftermath of Kedarnath floods. Data shows that children constitute 50-60% of victims of calamities. Hence there was a need to add rapes in course of natural calamities as the 21st category under aggravated penetrative sexual assault.

The cabinet has approved the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 under IPC. But IPC is not gender neutral. Since POSCO is a gender-neutral law the amendments widen the range of cases of sexual assault against boys and girls under 18 that are now punishable by death.

Is law a deterrent?

Government proposes that amendments will further enhance the deterrence against sexual assault on children. But the data shows that less than 3% of all POCSO cases end in convictions and experts further warn against the chilling effect the death penalty may have on reporting the crime. Hence it can be said that law by itself will not be a deterrent but systemic changes in law enforcement and prosecution hold the key to tackling child sexual abuse.