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The Contentious Bills That Lapsed Thanks to Parliament Disruption

Here’s a quick refresher of the contentious bills – Triple Talaq, Citizenship Amendment, Aadhaar Amendment & others.

Published
India
6 min read
 The Contentious Bills That Lapsed Thanks to Parliament Disruption
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A number of contentious Bills have lapsed in Parliament after Rajya Sabha was adjourned indefinitely on 13 February, the last day of the Budget Session.

Legislation such as the Triple Talaq Bill, The Citizenship Amendment Bill, The Transgender Persons Bill, the Aadhaar Amendment Bill, the DNA technology Bill, among others, were passed in the Lok Sabha but did not achieve ratification in the Rajya Sabha before the final session of the 16th Lok Sabha ended.

Each of these Bills were mired in controversy and have met with criticism for a variety of issues ranging from vague language, problematic provisions, lack of public consultation, threat to fundamental rights, inadequate discussion in Parliament and scrutiny by standing committees.

Those celebrating the lapse of the bills (as many in the Northeast have with regard to the Citizenship Amendment bill for example) have Parliament disruptions to thank.

So, now what?

These bills have now naturally lapsed according to the provision in Article 107 and 108 of the Constitution. These Bills will now have to be reintroduced in the new 17th Lok Sabha.

Twenty-two such Bills that were passed by the Lower House but remained pending in the Upper House, have now lapsed. We take a look at five of the most contentious ones.

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The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Ministry: Home Affairs

Passed by Lok Sabha: 8 January 2019

The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant eligibility for citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Soon after the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha, a nationwide bandh was declared amid an outbreak of protests and clashes, especially in Assam.

Members of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and 70 other organisations celebrate after the Citizenship Amendment Bill failed to secure parliamentary approval, in Guwahati,
(Photo Courtesy: PTI)

CONTENTIOUS POINTS

  • Proposes eligibility for citizenship to illegal immigrants on the basis of religion. This could be in contravention to Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • The Bill conspicuously omits Muslims and Jews among the religions who qualify for citizenship.
  • It relaxes the criteria for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to six years. This provision, too, has stirred unrest as it makes it more difficult for Muslims and Jewish migrants to become Indian citizens.
  • The Bill does not define vital terms such as “citizenship” and “nationalisation” leaving room for subjective and arbitrary interpretation.
  • The Bill has encountered particularly strong protests in Assam, Manipur and Mizoram as the proposed amendments appear to contradict the Assam Accord of 1985 which decided that those entering India after 24 March 1971 would be deported. Many fear that this Bill is aimed at changing the ethnic and religious demographic of the region.
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The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

Ministry: Social Justice and Welfare
Passed By Lok Sabha: 18 December 2018

Just like the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 was met with widespread protests. Hundreds of persons from the transgender community took to the streets of Delhi on 28 December against the Bill, which the community sees as aimed at criminalising transgender people and denying constitutionally guaranteed rights.

CONTENTIOUS POINTS

  • Definition of transgender: Among the major changes made to previous editions of the Bill is the definition of “transgender” to (A) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or (B) a combination of female or male; or (C) neither female nor male. However, other terms in the bill like ‘trans-men’, ‘trans-women’, persons with ‘intersex variations’ and ‘gender-queers’ have not been defined. This can create complexities in criminal and personal laws, which only recognise a binary definition of gender.
  • Screening Committee: The identification as ‘transgender’ depends on scrutiny and certification by a District Screening Committee. This validation by a screening committee goes against the Bill’s own provision that a person identifying as a “transgender” will have the right to “self-perceived” gender identity. The amended Bill also says that trans persons should be sent to a rehabilitation centre if their families are unable to take care of them.
  • Criminalising Traditional Professions: Transgender people have suffered harassment or been booked under begging prohibition laws, even when they are not begging and are merely present at public places. Section 19, which criminalises begging – a traditional source of livelihood for many in the community. Those opposing the Bill fear that it is likely to be used against trans persons under the garb of protecting them, and will jeopardise the traditional livelihood of Hijras and Kinnar transgender communities.
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The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018

Ministry: Law and Justice

Passed by Lok Sabha: 27 December 2018

The Bill makes any declaration of talaq-e-biddat (or any other instant form of talaq) void and illegal. Doing so will also be a cognisable and non-bailable offence, punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment. The woman will be entitled to get maintenance from her husband for herself and her children, and get custody of the children.

CONTENTIOUS POINTS

The criminalisation of triple talaq has been criticised by social activists, women’s groups and Muslim groups as the punitive measure is imprisonment of the husband. This, they say, runs counter to the practical reasoning behind making triple talaq illegal – to prevent separation of families and ensuring that the wife and children are not left destitute.

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The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Ministry: Electronics and IT

Passed by Lok Sabha: 4 January 2019

The Aadhaar Amendment bill has been roundly criticised for its attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court Judgment of 26 September and reinstate the private use of its infrastructure. The constitutional validity of Aadhaar was strongly challenged on the grounds that it violated the fundamental right to privacy. Even though the apex court upheld its validity, the five-judge bench had termed the use of Aadhaar by private entities as unconstitutional.

CONTENTIOUS POINTS

Did Private Companies Know of Amendment? While opposition MPs were caught on the wrong foot by the amendments, which were introduced without any notice, a new report in Asia Times indicates that private companies involved in the Aadhaar ecosystem may have been aware of government plans to introduce these amendments back in September 2018, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment.

Contravention of SC Judgment: Despite the Supreme Court judgment, the amendment seeks to contravene the judgment and enable the continued use of Aadhaar-based eKYC. This raises serious concerns about violations of user privacy.

The SC judgment also noted that this can “enable commercial exploitation of an individual biometric and demographic information by the private entities.”

No Data Protection Bill Yet: There is little to allay fears of misuse of data and safeguard citizen privacy in the absence of a data protection law. While the Srikrishna Committee submitted its report and draft data protection bill to the government way back in July 2018, no bill has been introduced in Parliament yet.

No Stakeholders Consulted: The government held no consultation with the public or independent experts before introducing the amendments thereby bypassing any public scrutiny.

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The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018

Ministry: Science and Technology and Earth Sciences

Passed by Lok Sabha: 8 January 2019

The Bill regulates the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in both criminal and civil matters.  In doing so, it proposes national and regional DNA banks. The Bill also states that every DNA laboratory that analyses a DNA sample to establish the identity of an individual, has to be accredited by a DNA Regulatory Board.

CONTENTIOUS POINTS

Consent: The Bill requires consent of the individual when DNA profiling is used in criminal investigations and identifying missing persons. However, consent requirements have not been specified in case of DNA profiling for civil matters.

DNA Profiling Without Data protection Law: This law allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and databanks for criminal investigations. All of this is happening without a credible privacy law in place.

Privacy: DNA laboratories are required to share DNA data with the Data Banks.  It is unclear whether DNA profiles for civil matters will also be stored in the Data Banks.  Storage of these profiles in the Data Banks may violate the right to privacy

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Topics:  Lok Sabha   Rajya Sabha   Aadhaar 

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