Who is Arjun Ram Meghwal, the new law minister?
The three-time Bikaner MP had presented a private member’s bill in the Lok Sabha to re-introduce Section 377, so that the Indian Penal Code be in keeping with 'Indian culture'
Arjun Ram Meghwal has taken over the law and justice ministry, while Kiren Rijiju has been shunted out to the ministry of earth science. Meghwal was already the minister of state for parliamentary affairs and culture, and will continue to keep that portfolio as well.
A press communication from the Rashtrapati Bhavan stated that Arjun Ram Meghwal, minister of state, will be "assigned the independent charge as Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice in addition to his existing portfolios, in place of Kiren Rijiju.”
Meghwal is infamous for having presented a private member's bill in the Lok Sabha against the Delhi High Court judgement of 2009, which termed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unConstitutional and decriminalised gay sex. In 2012, he introduced a bill to re-introduce Section 377 because "the honourable Delhi High Court's decision [to decriminalise homosexuality in 2009] is not in accordance with Indian culture”.
The MP had then claimed that, based on conversations with people in his constituency, he had understood that people were opposed to decriminalising homosexuality.
In 2018, he had stated that more "mob lynching incidents will take place" with the "rise in popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi". He also asserted that there was a conspiracy on to defame the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the central government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Soon after, he claimed that the media had misinterpreted his statement. The context of Meghwal’s comment was a recent lynching incident in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, where a man was beaten to death by a mob on suspicion of cow smuggling.
In July 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meghwal had endorsed the 'Bhabhi Ji' papad (poppadum) brand, where he claimed the ingredients of this papad helped the body to produce antibodies needed to fight the virus. “This papad will be useful in the fight against coronavirus," said Meghwal. The papad company was based in his constituency and the manufacturer claimed the product had immunity-boosting ingredients like giloy. However, studies have proven that consumption of giloy without prescription and monitoring can cause damage to the liver.
A former IAS officer, Meghwal is a three-time MP from Bikaner who, during his second term as MP, was made the chief whip of the BJP in the Lok Sabha. He has served as Union minister of state for finance and corporate affairs; Union minister of state for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and for parliamentary affairs; and Union minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprises and for parliamentary affairs in his three terms.
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