Besides Uniform Civil Code, MPs Seek to Restore Ballot Papers and dump the CAA
A slew of private members’ bills introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday seek among other things to change the method of appointing election commissioners
More than fifty private members’ bills have been introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha, a slew of them on Friday last week. Private Members’ Bills are those which are introduced by MPs who are not ministers and not introducing the bills on behalf of the government. Few private members’ bills are discussed and fewer still become the law in India. The figures for such bills in the United Kingdom are healthier. In the last 70 years in India, only 15 such bills eventually became laws.
But Private member’ bills do influence policies and laws by drawing attention to the issues. Reduction of voting age to 18, decriminalising homosexuality and suspension of Article 370 were first introduced by private members’ bills in Parliament. A BJP member introduced a private members’ bill last week to constitute a committee for introducing a uniform civil code, which is widely believed to have the blessings of the ruling party.
Here is a short and incomplete list of some of the Private Members’ Bills introduced in the Lok Sabha last week:
Restore ballot papers (The Representation of the People Bill, 2022): BSP member Danish Ali introducing the bill said, "EVMs are prone to errors and several countries in the world have stopped using EVMs as doubts have been raised about its veracity. EVMs should be replaced with traditional ballot papers in our country also".
Omit provisions inserted by the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2022:
Assam Congress leader and MP Abdul Khaleque introduced a private member’s bill seeking the omission of the amendments made in the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, which denied Indian citizenship to Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014, treating them as illegal migrant as opposed to people belonging to other religious faiths from those very countries.
Accountability for Internet shutdowns (Prevention of Internet Shutdowns Bill, 2022): Thamizhachi Thangapandian of the DMK introduced a bill to ask for increased transparency when it came to internet shutdowns. The Bill seeks to set up an effective system to prevent internet shutdowns and procedural safeguards to bring about accountability for the shutdowns. As per the Draft Telecommunications bill passed by the centre in September 2022, under provisions for ‘public emergency’ or ‘public safety’, it gives the government the right to suspend telecommunications networks. The government may “take temporary possession of any telecommunication services, telecommunication network or telecommunication infrastructure from a licensee or registered entity,” it says. In light of this event, the private member bill appears all the more pressing.
The Prevention of Mob Lynching Bill, 2022: IUML’s E T Mohammed Basheer introduced a bill to prevent mob lynching and provide for appropriate punishment for people committing mob lynching. The bill proposes to instil fear among perpetrators. It also seeks rehabilitation for victims as well as family members of mob lynching. Lynching is not defined as a crime under the Indian Penal Code. There are no specific laws at the central level to punish the crime.
The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2022: ET Mohammad Basheer also introduced the Prevention of Torture Bill. India is yet to ratify the UN convention against torture. In 2010, the Union Government put forward for parliamentary consideration the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010. However, the bill fell short of the UN, and was neither discussed nor passed.
Collegium to appoint Election Commissioners: The Constitution Amendment Bill, 2022: Congress MP Manish Tewari introduced a bill that provides for a high-level committee headed by the Prime Minister and consisting of the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India to select the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners. The Bill also calls for provisions to monitor internal elections in political parties. “The Election Commission shall regulate, monitor and superintend the internal election of registered political parties…in accordance with their respective constitutions until a Model Internal Code is prescribed by the Election Commission,” the bill adds.
Among others, Widows Protection Bill was introduced by Behanan Benny, Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill by Thomas Chazhikadan, Housing Facility for Destitute Senior Citizens, Widows and Orphan Children Bill by Thamizhachi Thangapandian and a Juvenile Justice Bill by Dr. Shashi Tharoor.