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6-min read

Modi Govt @ 4: Law on Child Rape a Win But Jury's Out on Triple Talaq, Uniform Civil Code Moves

Since 2014, the NDA government has brought a few key legislation into force which will only help draw up its report card on how well it has been able to stick to its poll promise.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:May 26, 2018, 2:07 PM IST
Modi Govt @ 4: Law on Child Rape a Win But Jury's Out on Triple Talaq, Uniform Civil Code Moves
Representative Photo (GETTY IMAGES)

New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 there was an inherent belief that one of the primary reasons for the snail-paced judiciary was either the presence of too many laws or the lack of some much-needed ones.

Flashback to 2014 and Modi armed with 336 seats in the Lok Sabha, the road ahead was still a bumpy ride for the NDA in the legislative arena. Astutely utilising BJP's lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha, the opportune opposition alliance of the Congress, Trinamool, Left, SP and BSP meticulously steered the bills passed by Lok Sabha to Select Committees.

Eventually with its calculating negotiations and parliamentary stratagem at their best, the NDA manoeuvred its path.

Legislations like Aadhaar were pushed ahead as money bills. Post Delhi and Bihar losses in 2015, the party revived its lost glory with victories in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Manipur and others which helped it fortify its presence in the Upper House. Legislations with canny implications that would gradually change not only business conduct but political practice started being brought into existence.

Even Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad laid out figures in last year’s press conference about the number of old laws that were done away with in the Modi regime.

"The Modi government is determined to relegate several archaic Acts to history. Laws need to be consonant with the times. 1,200 redundant Acts have been scrapped. 1,824 more have been identified for repeal," said law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Since 2014, the NDA government has brought a few key legislation into force which will only help draw up its report card on how well it has been able to stick to its poll promise.

First was the Juvenile Justice Amendment Act: Amidst heavy protests by NGOs, lawyers, activists and individuals working for child rights for being unconstitutional, the Juvenile Justice Amendment bill was passed allowing for children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if found committing a heinous crime.

Then came the much debated and mired in controversies, Goods and Services Tax Act. This act defines time for the Modi government. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitely introduced it as the comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax levied on every value addition, it is an indirect tax levied on supply of goods and services.

It was said to have removed the cascading effect as tax is calculated only on value addition at each transfer of ownership. To improve its understanding and acceptability in the public, Chartered accountants held classes in mandis and bazaar to make the shop owners aware of how the tax worked.

One of the other laws which were hailed from every quarter was the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. This legislation which brought an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 increased the period of maternity period, with different provisions like crèche facilities, option of work from home etc.

However, even this piece of legislation was not away from criticism. Industry insiders had pointed out that this extended maternity leave might result in firms opting for more men or women who already have been mothers as an employee.

Next came the law which ushered in transparency in dealings and confidence among home buyers. With thousands of home buyers still in the lurch with some builders still to give possession or cough up the refund amount, Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, was a much needed consumer arm.

With passage of this act developers have been given until the end of July 2017, to register their projects under RERA. Several states still need to notify the rules under the Act and most importantly for buyers, developers/promoters need to register their projects under RERA. This act has main objective of protecting the interests of home buyers and also boost investments in the real estate sector.

However, one of the crucial turning point in Modi regime was the Kathua rape case where an eight-year-old was alleged to have been gang raped over several days and later killed.

With the Prime Minister on an overseas trip, criticism to tackle sternly with such cases of child rapes was only mounting on the government and soon an ordinance was passed which amended the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to introduce the death penalty for rape of children younger than 12 years. The decision was taken a meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence in 7 Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi.

The government also in a letter submitted to the Supreme Court, said that it has started the process to amend the POCSO Act to ensure maximum punishment of death penalty in child rape cases where the victim is under 12 years of age.

Lastly, in the face of Nirav Modi’s scam, the government had also approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders ordinance, 2018 which provides for confiscating properties of corporate escapes.

The Act arms the Indian authorities to attach and confiscate proceeds of crime associated with economics offenders and the properties of the economic offenders and there by deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha on the 12th March, 2018 and was listed for consideration and passing in Lok Sabha.

Another major boost to Modi government’s attempt to fast track judiciary was the push for labour law reforms. With BJP in over 22 out of 29 states, important law labour reforms have been brought in based on the central government’s orders.

In Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, minimum number of workers in a factory for employer to be obliged to seek permission from the government to retrench workers increased from 100 to 300.

Amendments were passed in Rajasthan to increase compensation awarded to workers, in case of retrenchment. However, enforcement of labour law provisions by battling out it in the court has always been an exploited zone and thus needs to be seen how well it is implemented.

In Gujarat, too, amendments were passed that pressed for "out of court settlement” of disputes between workers and management ostensibly to reduce "endless litigation".

However, in spite of all these legislations, there still hangs two legislative swords over the Modi government, in the form of the triple talaq bill and the uniform civil code.

Heedless of nationwide protests, PM Modi after having failed to pass the ‘Muslim empowerment bill’ in the Rajya Sabha openly lamented that outgoing Rajya Sabha MPs failed to deliberate crucial matters, specifically the triple talaq Bill — the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, clearly demonstrating the Centre’s inordinate yearning to pass the legislation.

The law which mandated a three year jail term for a husband pronouncing unilateral divorce to his wife was critiqued to be “harsh” and “detrimental for a family system.” Even organisations who were the petitioners in the original case of triple talaq in the apex court had later approached the government to ease certain provisions.

But the present government looks at the legislation as an opportunity to appeal to the Muslim women in the country and would again push it to be passed in the Monsoon session of Parliament.

The next sword that hangs over the head of the Modi government is that of the Uniform Civil Code.

Out of various promises made by the BJP in almost every poll manifesto since the time of its inception, the Modi government—once again at the threshold of the 2019 General Elections—has reiterated its resolute devotion to the implementation of a nation-wide uniform civil code, eradicating personal laws based on religion. Taking a giant leap in this direction, in 2016, the Modi government instructed the Law Commission to examine the implementation of the UCC.

Now with the Commission denying a possibility of UCC last year in an interview to News18 has again started the process of consultation with stakeholders as the chairman’s tenure comes close to an end by August 30.

BJP leader and Supreme Court advocate, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, vehemently vouched for a uniform civil code before the law commission on May 18. However, now with matters like Nikah Misyar, polygamy and others again before the apex court it is yet to be seen how the Modi government treads the delicate path of balancing personal laws and uniform set of legislations.

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