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Congress Progressive Legislations

The Central Government introduced the Right to Information Act (RTI) on October 12th, 2005 as a means to empower the common man to check corruption and provide access to information which would otherwise have been denied.

The salient features of the act are:
  • Every citizen has a right to request and obtain information from ‘public authorities', subject to specified restrictions.
  • Public authorities have to supply information (or reject the request if restrictions apply) as early as possible. Maximum time allowed in normal circumstances is thirty days. Reasons have to be provided for rejecting request for information.
  • Public has to deal with Public Information Officer appointed by Public Authorities for making request and obtaining information.
  • Public authorities in response to a suo-moto can disclose a large chunk of information about themselves. This information is available for free. However, the citizens must pay a fee to obtain certain privileged information.
  • A variety of fees have been prescribed. They are reasonable. Citizens below the poverty line are exempted from paying the fees.
  • All three organs of governance, the executive, legislature and judiciary, including all their organs branches and offices are subject to disclosure of information.
  • Applicable to Constitutional Bodies.
  • Information of private bodies can also be obtained though the scope is limited.
  • Suitable checks imposed on the citizens' right to information in the form of ‘exemptions from disclosure'.
  • Except three exemptions, all others lose their significance in public interest.
  • Any information can be obtained dated back to period of more than twenty years.
  • Third party is defined as anyone other than the citizen requesting information and the public authority from which information is requested.
  • Third party has a right of representation and appeal if the information related to them is subject to matter of disclosure by a public authority.
  • Citizens requesting information have a two tier appellate remedy for any grievance under the Act, including absence of response and rejection of request.
  • Appeals are possible for charging of unreasonable fees.
  • An apex autonomous organization, the Information Commission is constituted at the centre and in every state.
  • Apex statutory body is the Central Information Commission at the centre, headed by a Central Chief Information Commissioner and manned by a team of about 10 Information Commissioners.
  • Corresponding bodies in states are Information Commission headed by the State Chief Information Commissioner and manned by a team of about 10 Information Commissioners.
  • The Commission is the second stage appellate authority.
  • Commission has CPC powers in respect of inspection and discovery and can even impose penalties upon erring officials and recommend disciplinary action on recurring defaults.
  • Citizens can file a direct complaint to the Commission for any grievances under the act.
  • Decision of the commission is final and binding, but they have the authority to grant further appeal at their discretion.
  • Jurisdiction of lower courts barred for any matter under the act.
  • Right to file writ can always be exercised.
The main aim of the act is to provide for the social security and welfare of unorganised workers.

The key features of the act are:
  • Central Government empowered to make appropriate welfare schemes related to:
    • Life and disability cover
    • Health and maternity benefits
    • Old age protection
    • Any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government
  • Constitution of National Social Security Board for Unorganized Workers
    • Members:
      • Union Minister for Labour and Employment - Chairperson, ex officio
      • The Director General (Labour Welfare) - Member-Secretary, ex officio
      • Thirty-four members to be nominated by the Central Government, out of whom:
        • Seven representing unorganized sector workers
        • Seven representing employers of unorganized sector
        • Seven representing eminent persons from civil society
        • Two representing members from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha
        • Five representing Central Government Ministries and Departments concerned
        • Five representing State Governments
      • Term of the National Board shall be three years
      • National Board shall meet at least thrice a year, at a particular time and place and shall observe the rules of procedure relating to the transaction of business at its meetings, as prescribed
    • Constitution of State Board
    • State Government may set up such Workers’ facilitation centres considered necessary on a regular basis to perform the following functions, namely:
      • disseminate information on available social security schemes for the unorganised workers
      • facilitate the filling, processing and forwarding of application forms for registration of unorganised workers
      • assist unorganised worker to obtain registration from the District Administration
      • facilitate the enrolment of the registered unorganised workers in social security schemes
    The objective of this act was to ensure reservation to students of Other Backward Classes in educational institutions.

    The key features of the act are:
    • There are two key amendments. Reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule is being amended. Second, the time-frame for full implementation of the Act is being extended.
    Tribal areas
    • The Principal Act provides for reservation of seats for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and OBCs in certain central educational institutions. It states that out of the annual permitted seats for a branch of study or faculty, 15% seats shall be reserved for SCs, 7.5% seats for STs and 27% for OBCs.
    • The Bill seeks to add a proviso that if there are central educational institutions in a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the state seats in those institutions shall have reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs. The quantum of reservation shall be prescribed by the state government. State seats refer to seats allocated for eligible students of the state in which the central educational institution is situated.
    • The Bill has a provision for cases where the central educational institutions in tribal areas do not have state seats and the seats reserved for SCs and STs exceeds the percentage specified in the Act. In such cases, the number of seats for the OBCs would be such that the total reserved seat is 50% of all seats.
    • If the total number of seats reserved for SCs and STs exceed 50%, there shall be no reservation for OBCs and the total percentage of reserved seats shall be reduced to 50% in all areas except the specified north-east region (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, and tribal areas of Assam).
    • The Principal Act requires institutions to increase the total number of seats in such a manner that the number of unreserved seats (general category) is not reduced due to reservation for OBCs. This was based on the number of seats available for general category before the Act was passed. The Bill modifies this to the lower of (a) number of seats available; (b) number of seats filled.
    • The Principal Act states that in case the central government decides that a central educational institution is not able to increase the seats to its annual permitted strength due to financial, physical or academic limitation, it may allow such institutions to increase the seats within three years. The Bill increases the time period to six years.
    • The Principal Act states that reservation of seats shall begin in 2007. The Bill amends this to 2008. Thus, the time-frame has been extended to 2014 (from 2010).
    The main purpose of the act is to provide the tribals and forest dwellers rights to cultivate forest land to the extent under occupation, the right to own, collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce, rights inside forests which are traditional and customary like grazing.

    The key features of the act are:
    • The Act recognises and vests the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. This would undo the historical injustice done to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.
    • The Act provides for recognition of forest rights of other traditional forest dwellers provided they have for at least three generations prior to 13.12.2005 primarily resided in and have depended on the forest or forest land for bonafide livelihood needs. A "generation" for this purpose would mean a period comprising of 25 years.
    • The cut off date for recognition and vesting of forest rights under the Act will be 13.12.2005.
    • The Act provides for the ceiling of occupation of forest land for purposes of recognition of forest rights to the area under actual occupation and in no case exceeding an area of four hectares.
    • The Act provides for conferring rights in the National Parks and Sanctuaries also, renamed as 'critical wildlife habitat' on regular basis.
    • The Act provides for the right to hold and live in the forestland under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood by a member or members of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers.
    • The Act recognises the right of ownership access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries. The Act has defined the term "minor forest produce" to include all non-timber forest produce of plant origin, including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like.
    • The Act recognises the right to in situ rehabilitation including alternative land in cases where the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers have been illegally evicted or displaced from forest land of any description without receiving their legal entitlement to rehabilitation prior to 13.12.2005.
    • The Act provides for the forest right relating to Government providing for diversion of forest land for the purpose of schools, hospitals, anganwadis, drinking water supply and water pipelines, roads, electric and telecommunication lines, etc.
    • The rights conferred under the Act shall be heritable but not alienable or transferable and shall be registered jointly in the name of both the spouses in the case of married persons and in the name of the single head, in the case of a household headed by a single person and in the absence of a direct heir, the heritable right shall pass on to the next of kin.
    • The Act provides that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is completed.
    • As per the Act, the Gram Sabha has been designated as the competent authority for initiating the process of determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both that may be given to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.
    The main objective of the act is to provide for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass root level for the purpose of providing access to justice to the common people at their door steps.

    The salient features of the act are:
    • Gram Nyayalayas are aimed at providing inexpensive justice to people in rural areas at their doorsteps.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be court of Judicial Magistrate of the first class and its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari) shall be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be established for every Panchayat at intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level in a district or where there is no Panchayat at intermediate level in any State, for a group of contiguous Panchayats.
    • The Nyayadhikaris who will preside over these Gram Nyayalayas are strictly judicial officers and will be drawing the same salary, deriving the same powers as First Class Magistrates working under High Courts.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be a mobile court and shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts.
    • The seat of the Gram Nyayalaya will be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat; they will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Act.
    • The Central as well as the State Governments have been given power to amend the First Schedule and the Second Schedule of the Act, as per their respective legislative competence.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall exercise the powers of a Civil Court with certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in the Act.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall try to settle the disputes as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties and for this purpose; it shall make use of the conciliators to be appointed for this purpose.
    • The judgment and order passed by the Gram Nyayalaya shall be deemed to be a decree and to avoid delay in its execution; the Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure for its execution.
    • The Gram Nyayalaya shall not be bound by the rules of evidence provided in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and subject to any rule made by the High Court.
    • The appeal in criminal cases shall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal.
    • The appeal in civil cases shall lie to the District Court, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal.
    • A person accused of an offence may file an application for plea bargaining.
    The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought into force by the Indian government on October 26th, 2006. The Act was passed by the Parliament in August, 2005 and assented to by the President on September 13th, 2005.

    The key features of the act are:
    • The Act seeks to cover those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption; in addition relationship with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living with the abuser are entitled to get legal protection under the proposed Act.
    • ‘Domestic violence’ includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic.
    • Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition.
    • One of the most important features of the Act is the woman’s right to secure housing. The Act provides for the woman’s right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a court. These residence orders cannot be passed against anyone who is a woman.
    • The other relief envisaged under the Act is that of the power of the court to pass protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act, entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by both the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives and others who provide her assistance from the domestic violence.
    • The draft Act provides for appointment of Protection Officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman with respect to medical examination, legal aid, safe shelter, etc.
    • The Act provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both. Similarly, non-compliance or discharge of duties by the Protection Officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.
    • While ‘economic abuse’ includes deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the victim is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a Court or otherwise or which the victim requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by her, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance and disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the victim has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the victim or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the victim and prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the victim is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household, "physical abuse" means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the victim and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.
    The bill provides for land acquisition as well as rehabilitation and resettlement. It replaces the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

    The salient features of this act are:
    • The process for land acquisition involves a Social Impact Assessment survey, preliminary notification stating the intent for acquisition, a declaration of acquisition, and compensation to be given by a certain time. All acquisitions require rehabilitation and resettlement to be provided to the people affected by the acquisition.
    • Compensation for the owners of the acquired land shall be four times the market value in case of rural areas and twice in case of urban areas.
    • In case of acquisition of land for use by private companies or public private partnerships, consent of 80 per cent of the displaced people will be required. Purchase of large pieces of land by private companies will require provision of rehabilitation and resettlement.
    • The provisions of this Bill shall not apply to acquisitions under 16 existing legislations including the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Railways
    Approximately 22 crore children in India fall under the age group 6-14. Out of them about 4.1% i.e. 92 lakh children either dropped out of school or never attend any educational institution. These children will be guaranteed elementary education. It is the responsibility of the local and state governments to ensure this. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is mandated to monitor the implementation of this act.

    The salient features of the act are:
    • Every child in the age group of 6-14 has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, till the completion of elementary education.
    • Private schools will have to take 25% of their class strength from the weaker section and the disadvantaged group of the society through a random selection process. Government will fund education of these children.
      • No seats in this quota can be left vacant. These children will be treated on par with all the other children in the school and subsidized by the state at the rate of average per learner costs in the government schools (unless the per learner costs in the private school are lower).
      • All schools will have to prescribe to norms and standards laid out in the Act and any school which does not fulfil these standards within 3 years will be allowed to function. All private schools will have to apply for recognition, failing which they will be penalized to the tune of Rs 1 lakh and if they still continue to function will be liable to pay Rs 10,000 per day as fine. Norms and standards of teacher qualification and training are also being laid down by an Academic Authority. Teachers in all schools will have to subscribe to these norms within 5 years.
    • No donation and capitation fee is allowed.
    • No admission test or interview either for child or parents.
    • No child can be held back, expelled and required to pass the board examination till the completion of elementary education.
    • There is provision for establishment of commissions to supervise the implementation of the act.
    • A fixed student and teacher ratio is to be maintained.
    • All schools have to adhere to rules and regulations laid down in this act, failing which the school will not be allowed to function. Three years moratorium period has been provided to school to implement all that is required of them.
    • Norms for teachers training and qualifications are also clearly mentioned in the act.
    • All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75% of parents and guardians as its members.
    The bill aims to provide for 30% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures.

    The salient features of the act are:
    • One-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies are to be reserved for women. The allocation of reserved seats is to be determined by an authority appointed by the parliament.
    • One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are to be reserved for women from these groups.
    • Reserved seats are to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory. In case the number of seats in a state or union territory is less than three, the seats are to be reserved in a cycle of three elections.
    • Reservation of seats for women is to cease after 15 years from the commencement of the Amendment Act.
    In order to prevent the outbreak of communal riots, this bill was introduced. It allows the state government to declare an area as communally sensitive to prevent the outbreak of communal riots. Further, it doubles the punishment for certain crimes in such areas. It provides for special courts. It also establishes a system for the rehabilitation of victims.

    The key features of this bill are:
    • The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 provides for (a) prevention and control of communal violence, (b) speedy investigation and trials, and (c) rehabilitation of victims.
    • The state government can declare an area as communally disturbed under certain conditions. The district magistrate or the competent authority appointed by the state government can take measures such as regulating assembly, directing persons to deposit their arms, searching premises etc. to control communal violence.
    • The Bill provides double the punishment as provided by other existing laws. The state government shall establish special courts to try offences under this law. These courts may direct convicted persons to pay compensation to victims or dependents.
    • Communal Disturbance Relief and Rehabilitation Councils will be formed at the national, state and district levels.
    • The district council shall pay at least 20 percent of total compensation as immediate compensation to victims.
    Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) assures the subsidy amount is credited directly to the bank account of the beneficiaries.

    The salient features of the act are:
    • It can help the government reach out to identified beneficiaries and thus plug leakages.
    • The Direct Benefit Transfer system presently covers seven schemes such as scholarships and old age pensions. A total of 26 schemes are covered under it.
    • As on Jan 1st, 2013 the DCT will benefit 2 lakh people and cost of operations is just Rs.3 per transaction as against Rs.27 per 100 in the past.
    • The new scheme aims to plug leakages in the current subsidy regime and will cover more than half of India’s population, making it the world’s largest cash transfer program.
    • The new program rests on two pillars – Bank Account and Aadhaar or Unique Identification Number (UID) program.
    • Under the scheme money is directly transferred into bank accounts of beneficiaries. LPG and kerosene subsidies, pension payments, scholarships and employment guarantee scheme payments as well as benefits under other government welfare programmes will be credited directly to beneficiaries.
    • The money can then be used to buy services from the market. For instance: if subsidy on LPG or kerosene is abolished and the government still wants to give the subsidy to the poor, the subsidy portion will be transferred as cash into the banks of the intended beneficiaries.
    • The All Women’s Bank is set to commence operations from October, 2013.
    • The main objective of this venture is to promote women empowerment.
    • The bank will employ, lend mostly to women, support women’s business, self-help groups and women’s livelihood.
    The bill provides for stringent punishment for crimes against women, including rape. It also defines acid attack, stalking and voyeurism as criminal offences.

    The salient features of the bill are:
    • It makes rape a gender-specific offence under which men only can be charged with it.
    • It provides for a minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to ‘natural life’ of the convict in jail. There is also a provision for the death sentence if the victim dies or is left in a ‘persistent vegetative state’.
    • Stalking, voyeurism has been defined as criminal offences in the bill. Sustained stalking will be a non-bailable offence.
    The main objective of this bill is to ensure the safety and protection of women, including domestic helps and agricultural labourers against sexual harassment at work places.

    The salient features of the act are:
    • It provides a secure and enabling environment for women employees, making it mandatory for all workplaces including home, universities, hospitals, government and non-government offices, factories, other formal and informal work places to constitute an internal committee for redressal of complaints.
    • Under the law, such cases of harassment will have to be disposed of by in-house committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed. Repeated non-compliance will even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
    • Sexual harassment, which will be covered under the law, includes any one or more unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. The acts whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
    • It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges. If it is found that a woman had filed complaint against someone with mala-fide intention, there is a provision for some punishment for her. The failure to prove charges against the person will, however, not be construed as mala-fide intention.
    • The Bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.
    • The Act defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full-time, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.
    The aim of this act is to provide food and nutritional security to the citizens by making sure that the poor and needy have access to food at affordable prices.

    The salient features of the bill are:
    • Legal entitlement to subsidized food grains to be extended to at least 75% of the country’s population - 90% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas.
    • The priority households (46% in rural areas and 28% in urban areas) to have a monthly entitlement of 35 kgs (equivalent to 7 kgs per person) at a subsidized price of Rs. 1 per Kg for millets, Rs. 2 per Kg for wheat and Rs. 3 per Kg for rice.
    • The general households (39% rural and 12% urban in phase 1 and 44% rural and 22% urban in final phase) to have a monthly entitlement of 20Kgs (equivalent to 4 kgs per person) at a price not exceeding 50% of the current Minimum Support Price for millets, wheat and rice.
    • The minimum coverage, entitlement and price to remain unchanged until the end of the XII five year plan.
    • Government of India to specify the criteria for categorization of population into priority and general households.
    • In the first phase, food entitlement to be extended to 72 per cent of the population. In the final phase, to be completed before March 31, 2014, full coverage of food entitlement (to 75 per cent of the population) to be ensured.
    • Legal entitlements for child and maternal nutrition, destitute and other vulnerable groups.
    • Reform of the Public Distribution System.
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