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Round-up of Bills to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament

A view of the Parliament House in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Some of the Bills that are slated for discussion in this year's winter session pertain to deposit insurance, triple talaq, and grievance redressal for atrocities against backward classes. Here is a review of the major Bills to be tabled in Parliament.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The Bill was introduced by the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari. It seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 by incorporating clauses to introduce third party insurance, enhance road safety, and develop a framework for regulating taxi aggregators like Ola, Uber, and Meru.  

The Bill proposes to set a ceiling for third party insurance in case of an accident. The Motor Vehicles Act,1988, which is presently in force, does not fix a maximum liability for road accidents. The Bill caps liability at Rs.10 lakh in the case of fatalities, and Rs.5 lakh for grievous injuries. A solatium fund is to be instituted to compensate victims of hit-and-run accidents.   

 

 

According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 1,48,707 people were killed, and 4,82,000 injured in road accidents in 2015. If the Bill were to be passed, the maximum compensation to be paid to victims would amount to Rs.38,970 crore, or $6.09 billion, which is in the same ballpark as Uber's global revenue of $6.5 billion in 2016.

The new law also seeks to create a uniform law that would regulate taxi aggregators, ironing out legal hurdles that arise when state regulations are in variance with Central guidelines. The need to monitor the functioning of mobility-enabler companies has come under the scanner following instances where the safety of passengers was compromised.

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill

The amount of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) that India's financial institutions are saddled with have steadily risen over the last few years. The FRDI Bill is aimed at insuring the money of a bank’s depositors in case the bank would have to be liquidated.

 

According to the response given by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to a question raised in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2017, the gross NPAs of public sector banks increased by 311.22% from Rs.1,55,890 crores in 2013 to Rs.6,41,057 crores in 2017. The gross NPA ratio as a percentage of total assets rose from 3.84% to 12.47%. Likewise, the gross NPAs of private banks witness an increase of 269.47% from Rs.19,986 crores in 2013 to Rs.73,842 crores in 2017.

The FRDI Bill proposes the setting up of a Resolution Corporation, “whose direction and management vests with the Board, subject to the terms and conditions of the Act.” A ‘Corporation Insurance Fund’ is the financial vehicle which will be used to garner insurance inflows.

The bail-in clause has emerged as the major bone of contention with depositors. This gives banks the authority to issue securities in lieu of the money deposited. While the insurance covers only ₹1,00,000 of the principal, the remainder of the sum deposited with a bank will be converted to tradable financial assets which can be redeemed. However, their value will not be immediately commensurate with the deposit amount since if a bank has filed for bankruptcy, the value of assets held would have also eroded.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017

This Bill seeks to assimilate the Indian diaspora into the democratic process by allowing them to cast their votes through postal or e-ballots. As of 2016, Indian nationals residing abroad amounted to 1.3 crore according to Ministry of External Affairs data

This figure is roughly ten times the population of the State of Goa, which is home to 14.59 lakh people as per the census of 2011. If the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 is passed by Parliament, it has the potential to make a tangible difference in electoral politics since parties would also have to accommodate the interests of NRIs, which may be far removed from those of their compatriots.      

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017

This Bill was introduced by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Thaawarchand Gehlot, and was passed by the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session. It is being re-introduced after factoring in the changes recommended by the Upper House. The basic objective of the law is to institute the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) whose functioning would be analogous to that of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

The Constitution grants NCSC the jurisdiction to investigate complaints regarding discrimination against backward castes and Anglo-Indians. The Bill  will create a constitutionally mandated body to look into the complaints of educationally and economically backward classes.

The draft Bill states that the President, in consultation with the Governors of States and Union Territories, have the power to classify based on economic background and level of education. The NCBC will comprise of five members appointed by the President. The body will have the power of a civil court in dealing with complaints brought before it.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017

The Union Cabinet has given its backing to this law that would make the practice of triple talaq a criminal offence. Triple talaq is a practice by which a Muslim man can arbitrarily divorce his wife by repeating the word talaq (divorce) three times. The practice of triple talaq has been outlawed in many Muslim-majority countries.

The Supreme Court had termed triple 'un-Islamic' in August, drawing the ire of religious group who blamed the government for formulating a law that would encroach on their religious freedom.  

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Stopping the influx of migrants from Bangladesh was one of the key poll planks during the Assembly elections in Assam, and the Central government has repeatedly warned of the security risk involved in giving asylum to Rohingya refugees. 

The 2016 Bill was Tabled in the Lok Sabha by Rajnath Singh. It seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and grant citizenship to illegal migrants, especially those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction. The law defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner who enters the country without valid travel documents, or one who overstays his visit.

One of the key points of divergence from the Act is the relaxation of the time required for naturalisation. A foreigner who has been residing in the country for the past six years or has been in government service for that duration of time will qualify for citizenship, as opposed to the old law which required 11 years of domicile to prove naturalisation. This clause is waived for individuals of the aforementioned religions who are persecuted in their countries.

The old law has the provision to revoke citizenship if the application was found to be fraud or if the person is imprisoned for two or more years, five years after having been granted citizenship. The Bill states that one's Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status would be cancelled if any law is violated. It does not draw a distinction between minor infractions and serious offences.

 The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in 2014. It was unanimously passed in the Upper House but was never debated in the Lok Sabha.

The 2016 version of the legislation identifies transgenders as being “partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”. This definition which draws a clinical caricature is a departure from the intention of the original Bill to cleanse society of the stigma it placed on transgenders.

Moreover, to be recognised as transgenders, individuals have to submit themselves to a medical examination by a District Screening Committee comprising of a Chief Medical Officer, a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a member of the transgender community.

The anti-discriminatory clauses of the Bill are extended to education, health care and social security. Some of the recommendations that find a place in the final draft include the rescue, protection, and rehabilitation of transgenders.

Educational institutions have been directed to adopt an inclusive approach that is gender-neutral. The government has also formulated welfare schemes especially targeted at transgenders such as basic medical facilities including sex reassignment surgery. Vocational training programmes are also in the pipeline.

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