August 04, 2019

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE CPI(M) opposed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and requested the government to withdraw it so as not to dilute the powers and autonomy of the transparency panel. In Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan said the power of the legislature should not be allowed to be taken over by the executive. He asked the government not to dilute the original Act. In Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh said the amendment would make the Information Commission just another government department. The proposed amendment would kill the very underlying principle of the RTI Act. He said 14 Bills have been passed by the government in this session without proper legislative scrutiny. The government is not aware of the pre-legislative consultation policy. I may remind the government about fair legislative process. After a draft is prepared, it is to be put up in the public domain for seeking views. Certain Bills have been referred to the Select Committee, but that was not because of the benevolence of the Treasury Benches, but because of the strong, mountain-like, Opposition in this House. The government must take views of the Opposition and send this Bill to a Select Committee. This amendment is going to weaken and compromise the ability of the Information Commission to function in an independent manner. It is curtailing the autonomy of the Information Commission. This amendment is a violation of the federal principles also. Despite strong protests from the Opposition, the Bill was passed by Parliament.

In Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem spoke on the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. He said the amendment Bill fails to address the concerns of civil society on working of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Bill raises serious questions and doubts over the government’s intention towards ensuring NHRC’s autonomy and independence as required according to the UN’s Paris Principles. No consultations have been held with stakeholders, NGOs and civil society before the amendments were brought in. When we speak about human rights and protection of human rights, I think, this government and the forces which are controlling the government do not have any moral ground to be part of such a discussion. According to me, our country is going back to the dark age where rights of the citizen are curbed by someone or a group of people. They believe in mobocracy, instead of democracy. They believe in dividing the society, instead of propagating slogans of fraternity and brotherhood. The situation in the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir is very serious. There, people are not able to enjoy their human rights. They also do not have protection from the state machinery.

Natarajan spoke on the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha. He said five provisions of the amended Bill are directly encroaching upon the powers of the States and will have serious impact on the States’ revenue, functioning of the State Transport Undertakings and the Motor Vehicles Department. It will also adversely impact the job security of the staff of the State Transport Undertakings and other Government Departments, besides imposing severe drawbacks on providing transport facilities to rural and hilly areas, which is now being done by the State Transport Undertakings without a profit motive. He requested the government to withdraw all the amendments.

In Rajya Sabha, Jharna Das Baidya spoke on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019. She said that after the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua the government brought an Ordinance amending the IPC to make child rape as a separate crime, introduce death penalty for the rape of a girl below the age of 12 and provide for life imprisonment for the rape of girls between the age of 12 and 16. She said it is important to remember that the Supreme Court also disallowed the death penalty. The Justice Verma Committee also disallowed the death penalty. Therefore, how many people we will punish. How many people we will hang. It is the poor, dalit, tribal, backward class and minority people who cannot even hire a prosecutor. Those people cannot file a case. They cannot even register an FIR in the police station. Therefore, it is not the case of awarding death penalty only, there is a need for awareness and counseling. Victims need counseling. For this, we should make some provision at police stations. We should set up courts for women. In addition to counseling, they need rehabilitation. They need compensation. Unless this happens, the situation will not improve. Until society improves itself, it will not stop.

Speaking on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha, A M Ariff said there is no doubt that terrorism is the greatest threat to humanity. Therefore, we need to have strong laws to protect our country from terrorism. We have strong laws against it, but I am sorry to say that all these laws were largely misused by successive governments. Unfortunately, the UAPA is no different from the others. I would like to mention some instances of misuse. There are clear cut evidences to show that the growth of terrorism is sponsored by the international weapon manufacturers and their agents. We often forget that it is the root cause of terrorism. The equation is simple. More terrorist activities mean more defence budgetary allocations. The Bill seeks to allow an individual suspected to have terror links to be designated as a terrorist. What is the real picture of our anti-terrorist laws? Under the National Security Act, a suspect charged can be detained for up to two years, without a charge sheet. It is widely being misused in Uttar Pradesh against those allegedly involved in cow slaughter. In January, 2019, in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh, three people were accused of slaughtering cows and were arrested. ‘The Hindu’ newspaper reported that the Madhya Pradesh government invoked the NSA against milk adulterators. I don’t know whether the Food Adulteration Act will come under the ambit of the NSA. I would request the Home Minister to please explain whether killing of cows are considered as crime that threaten the security of our country. About the TADA and the POTA, it is shocking that in 1994 more than 70,000 people were arrested under the TADA. In 1990, 5,000 people were arrested under the TADA in Gujarat. Target of the TADA is terrorists. Instead of terrorists, people like trade unionists, activists, political rivals and journalists were brought under the purview of this Act.  Again, the UAPA law has been abused by governments to target defenders of human rights who are working with the poor and marginalised communities, and those who criticize government’s inaction or excesses.

Speaking on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 or the Triple Talaq Bill, Ariff said at the outset, I fully agree with the view that triple talaq is uncivilized. It does not exist in many Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt. I also support the Supreme Court’s verdict that it is unconstitutional. As we all know, the verdict of the Supreme Court is the law of the land. If the Supreme Court has pronounced a judgement that triple talaq is illegal, it is considered as illegal. Then, what is the need of introducing a Bill of this kind? The Muslim minorities in our country are living in a state of fear. This feeling is increasing day by day. It is because you are passing Bills on NIA, UAPA and now, triple talaq, targeting the Muslims. So, I vehemently oppose the Bill. My first contention is that the Bill is discriminatory in nature. It deals with the cases under the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is to be noted that marriage Acts of all other religions deal with the cases under the Code of Civil Procedure and have simple penal provision in case of violation. It violates Article 14 of the Constitution that ensures equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws. The intention of the government is very clear. It is adopting a policy of jail, not bail. It is to be noted that educational and social backwardness was responsible for the condition of Muslim women far more than triple talaq. He requested the government to take necessary steps in this regard.