Opposition agrees to government proposal to refer Bill to Subject Committee

: The State Assembly on Thursday witnessed a rare consensus on the way forward to bring out a more comprehensive and improved version of the Kerala Protection of Privacy and Dignity of Women Bill, 2013, which was piloted in the House by Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan. Consequently, the Opposition did not press for a vote for referring it to a Select Committee and agreed to the government proposal to refer the Bill to the Subject Committee, taking in its true spirit Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s assurance that the government would not push for legislation during the current session and would seek the opinions of all sections of society prior to bringing out a comprehensive Bill.

As the debate on the motion seeking to refer the Bill to the Select Committee proceeded, it became clear that there was a lack of clarity in some of the provisions in the Bill, prompting the government to seize the opportunity for wider consultations. The opportunity came up mainly because M.A. Baby, who had led the Opposition in the debate, was not present in the House to press for a vote to refer the Bill to the Select Committee. Speaker G. Karthikeyan stuck to the rule and said the vote was not possible since the member who had moved for it was absent.

The debate witnessed all-round participation with even ruling bench members expressing their reservations about some of the provisions of the Bill. During the debate, Mr. Baby differed with the title of the bill and wanted the penal provisions to be in proportion to the offence. He had several ruling bench members supporting his stand on this.

CPI member Biji Mol urged the Home Minister to incorporate some of the recommendations made by the Assembly Committee on Women and Children during the previous LDF government’s rule.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan pointed out the possibilities of the new State law going against the Central law. Welcoming the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, Mr. Balakrishnan feared that some of the provisions would dilute the punitive aspects of other laws. He criticised the government for bringing in haste such a Bill, a charge the Home Minister denied.

The Minister said the idea for a law to protect women’s dignity had originated in 2007 itself. The UDF had held discussions with various sections, including women’s forums, before drafting the Bill.

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