HRLN looks at key legislations passed in the 2019 Monsoon session
HRLN The Monsoon session of the Parliament - which concluded on Wednesday - has the distinction of passing the most number of bills in its 67 year history. The session that commenced on 17 June, concluded on 7 August, working for 281 hours over a period of 37 days. In its first session since the Narendra Modi-led government was voted back to power, the Parliament cleared 28 of the 38 bills introduced. The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 was categorised as a 'Money Bill' by the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and hence it is deemed to be passed even though the Rajya Sabha sent it back for reconsideration. Several more bills were passed by the Lok Sabha, but have not been yet got the Rajya Sabha nod. It is pertinent to point out that many bills passed during this session pertained to gender rights and women's issues. HRLN highlights a few key legislations from this session. 1) The Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019 This bill is perhaps one of the most important bills to have been passed by the Parliament in recent times. The Bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 5 August passed muster after a day-long debate. The bill was passed with a clear majority in the Lok Sabha a day later. By this bill, the Centre seeks to revoke Article 370 that granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir while splitting the state in two union territories. Jammu and Kashmir will be Union territory with a legislation, whereas Ladakh will be a separate UT without a legislation. Through this bill, 166 state laws remain in force, of which there are amendments to seven of them. The bill also seeks to repeal 153 state laws while 106 central laws will be made applicable to the state. You can read the bill Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019. 2) The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 In order to tackle the rising pendency of cases in the higher judiciary, the Lok Sabha passed a bill that seeks to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court. The Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla categorised the bill as a 'Money Bill' hence it is deemed to be passed even though the Rajya Sabha sent it back for reconsideration. By this bill, the number of judges in the supreme court rises by three, which brings the total number of judges to 34 including the Chief Justice of India. According to Statistics available on the Supreme Court website, there are 59,695 pending cases. Of these, 13,852 matters (13,563 Incomplete Miscellaneous matters and 289 Not Ready Regular Hearing matters) are such matters which cannot be listed for ‘hearing’ before the court. You can read the bill Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019. 3) The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 The Lok Sabha passed the transgender persons bill which critics say fell just short of a death knell for the hopes of this marginalised community. Introduced in July, the bill was passed by the lower house on 5 August. “The bill restricts the identity to only third gender and if you want an identity of male or female, then you have to go through physical screening. In that, the whole thing of self-identity has been lost,” Director of HRLN's transgender unit Rachana Mudraboyina said speaking to news portal Newslaundry. Read Mudraboyina's critique of this bill on the HRLN website here. You can read the bill The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 Bill Text. 4) The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 The Triple Talaq Bill, which lapsed at the dissolution of the Parliament in the 2018 Winter session, was reintroduced in the Monsoon session this year. A key agenda for the Narendra Modi government, the Triple Talaq Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha this July, and after passing muster was laid before the floor in the Upper House where it won by a slim majority. The bill got sanction soon after with the President's assent. Now, it's illegal and a cognizable offence for a Muslim man to divorce his wife by simply uttering Talaq thrice, attracting a jail term up to three years. You can read the bill Muslim women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019. 5) The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 The new bill - which replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was passed by the Parliament. Through this bill, the Centre has sought strict penalties for those indulging in adulteration of products, and a stiff fine for those who endorse misleading ads. You can read the bill THE CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2019 Bill Text. 6) The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 Despite a strong debate by the opposition in the Upper House, the Centre managed to gain rousing support in favour of the amendments to the UAPA bill. By this new bill, the Central Government or the states can designate individuals as terrorist and seize their property. You can read about the bill THE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) AMENDMENT Bill TExt. 7) The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 On 1 August, the Parliament passed the amendments to the POCSO bill that awards the death penalty for aggravated penetrative sexual assault. Anuradha Singh, advocate with HRLN, opines that this bill is just a tool to calm the issue and divert the discussion on issues like increasing number of child abuse, low conviction rates, Court delays and serious lack of rehabilitation measures. Harsher strictures have been listed for those committing sexual assaults on minors. You can read the bill Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (A) Bill, 2019. 8) The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday has denied women bodily integrity and self-determination. The bill aims to promote lofty ideals of "altruistic surrogacy" while completely banning commercial surrogacy. By this bill the Centre has exploited the cause of altruistic surrogacy. Foreign nationals, people in same sex relationships, couples in a live-in relationship, single individuals and those couples who already have biological and adopted children have been excluded from opting for surrogacy. Philip C. Philip, Queer rights activist with HRLN, says the bill has miserably failed in justifying the exclusionary principles. "It has effectively narrowed down the definitions attributed to various terms in the proposed Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2010. The present bill exclusively addresses and deals with issues related to surrogacy and excludes all other ART techniques. It has effectively banned all forms of commercial surrogacy and in altruistic surrogacy is restricted to close relatives to legally wedded infertile heterosexual couples who have been married for at least 5 years and compulsorily have to be Indian citizens." You can read the bill Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019. 9) The RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 On August 1, the President gave his nod to the amendments in the RTI Act which effectively gives the Centre the power to determine the tenure, salary and conditions of service of the Information Commissioners (IC), the chief information commissioner (CIC) and the state information commissioners (SICs). The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with a voice vote even as several members of the opposition parties staged a walkout. You can read criticism of the act here. You can read the bill RTI Bill as passed by LS.