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Groups of Ministers on lynchings, harassment on hold

Any decision on laws against sexual harassment, lynching will now be taken by next government.

March 19, 2019 10:42 pm | Updated March 20, 2019 12:16 pm IST - New Delhi

Representational image.

Representational image.

With the announcement of general elections on March 10, at least two important Groups of Ministers (GoMs) constituted by the Centre last year to suggest measures on anti-lynching and prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace have been put in the cold storage.

Till the next government is sworn in during May-June, the government cannot bring in changes in law on the two subjects.

A top source in the Ministry of Women and Child Development said the government’s attempt to address sexual harassment at workplace in the aftermath of the MeToo movement by revisiting the law and suggesting ways to improve the response mechanism of organisations is now “on hold.”

“The GoM is on hold because we are now on election track. It is now up to the next government (to take a decision),” the source said.

The government had set up a four-member GoM in October last year and gave it three months to give its recommendations.

 

The GoM is headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and includes Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Maneka Gandhi and Nirmala Sitharaman. It, however, met only once and tasked another sub-panel to submit a report.

While the Ministry of Women and Child Development submitted its inputs in January, the sub-committee couldn’t compile a report to place it before the GoM.

The sub-committee includes officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Law & Justice.

On July 23 last year, after several incidents of lynching were reported across the country, the government announced that a GoM headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will submit its recommendations on ways to prevent the crime to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A senior government official said the GoM met on two occasions but was yet to finalise its report. A high-level committee headed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba submitted its report to the GoM in September, but it was yet to finalise the recommendations.

Among the measures suggested by the panel was tightening of law by inserting clauses in the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure through parliamentary approval.

The members of the GoM are External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot.

Another significant legislation that proposed that critical personal data of Indian citizens be processed in centres located within the country and also proposed financial penalties for data processor for violations of the data protection law have also been put on the back-burner.

On January 4, Union Minister for Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha that government had finalised the data protection law.

Similarly, there is uncertainty over the handing over of development and operations of six airports for which Airports Authority of India had invited bids due to model code of conduct.

While the Adani Enterprises Limited emerged as the highest bidder, a final decision from the government on awarding these airports is awaited.

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