There are over 120 pending Bills in Parliament, many of which have lacked necessary political consensus to move to the statute book. India Real Time suggests some options for Mr. Gandhi to seize the moment and use his political clout to get them into law…
Recently, India’s Government decided to withdraw a controversial temporary law, which would have allowed some convicted criminals to continue as members of Parliament. The move is widely seen as a response to Rahul Gandhi’s recent criticism of the executive order, known here as an ordinance, which he described as “nonsense.” Mr. Gandhi is Vice President of India’s ruling Congress party. The statement marked Mr. Gandhi’s strongest public assertion of authority over a party governed by his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who is the party’s President.
After finding his political voice, what should Mr. Gandhi do next?
There are over 120 pending Bills in Parliament, many of which have lacked necessary political consensus to move to the statute book. India Real Time suggests some options for Mr. Gandhi to seize the moment and use his political clout to get them into law.
In India, proposed legislation is introduced either to the upper or lower house of Parliament, and is then referred to standing committees with members from almost every party to suggest changes. From there it is sent to the Cabinet for their approval, before the amended Bill is sent back to lawmakers in Parliament. Both houses of Parliament must vote on legislation before it is sent to the President of India for sign-off. After a notification of a new act is published in the Gazette, it becomes law. In special cases, to push laws through without a vote, Cabinet can pass an ordinance, which must gain presidential approval and then be ratified within six weeks of the opening of the next session of Parliament.
- The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2005: The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament in December 2005. The proposed legislation doubles the punishment for perpetrators of communal violence, but has not been voted upon. A committee report was submitted in December 2006.
- The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Amendment Act, 2011: The Bill seeks to ban all child labor under the age of 14. In cases where minors work in hazardous professions such as mining or metal casting, the Bill fixes the bar would be higher, at 18. The proposed law was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012 and is now at the committee stage.
- Lok Pal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011: This aims to create a national ombudsman to investigate allegations of corruption against certain public servants. It was passed by the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament in December 2011, and is awaiting a vote in the Rajya Sabha. Amendments to the Bill suggested by a select committee of the Rajya Sabha in August 2013 can be seen on the Net.
- Marriage Laws Amendment Bill, 2013: This would allow divorce by mutual consent and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. It would also give the a wife an option to oppose a divorce if she believes it would lead to severe financial hardship. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in August 2013 and is awaiting introduction in the Lok Sabha.
- Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010: The proposed legislature lists punishments for Government officials who torture in jails. Activists, while applauding the proposal, have criticized a clause which specifies that complaints can only be made within six months of the incident. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2010; a committee filed its report in December 2010.
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012: Introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012, a committee report on the Bill was submitted on September 24, 2013. The Bill seeks to widen the scope of the 1986 Act of the same name which prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or publications, writings and paintings, to include images on the Internet, satellite based communication and cable television.
Which piece of pending legislation should Mr. Gandhi seek to push through? Readers of India Real Time ( The Wall Stret Journal) were requested to cast their vote on it.