Bills and Acts in Current Affairs 2017

Summary of latest bill and acts passed or pending in 2017 in Parliament of India with their salient features and issues for Current Affairs 2017 preparation for various examinations.

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President gives assent to Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016

President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, to enable industries to pay wages by cheque or credit into the bank accounts of workers.

The ordinance amends the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to encourage cashless transactions. With this assent the ordinance becomes law as per article 123 of the Constitution.

Key Provisions of Ordinance
  • Allows industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000 per month, without taking their explicit consent as required under present Act.
  • Empowers the Union and State governments to specify industries or establishments where wage payments can be made mandatory through banks.
  • However, it is not mandatory for employers to make wage payments through the banking system and they can still pay in cash.
Background

The Union Government had decided to take the ordinance route because after demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes in November 2016 had led to a cash crunch, and employers were finding it tough to pay workers in cash. The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced in Parliament was also not able get passed during winter session of the Parliament.

Article 123 of Constitution: It gives legislative power to President. He can issue ordinances when Parliament is not in session (i.e. recess) if there is urgent need to have a law on some urgent public matter. The promulgated ordinance has similar effect to an act of parliament. However, every ordinance must be laid and approved by both houses of the parliament within 6 weeks from the reassembling. If not placed and approved by both houses of the parliament after reassembling it lapses or becomes invalid.

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Union Cabinet approves ordinance to pay salaries by cheques

The Union Cabinet has approved a draft ordinance to empower states and allow industries to pay workers’ wages digitally, through a direct bank transfer to accounts or by cheque in a bid to encourage cashless transactions.

The draft ordinance proposes changes to the Section 6 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to encourage cashless transactions. It will need the President’s assent to become law as per article 123 of the Constitution.

Key Facts
  • It will allow industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000/ month, without taking their explicitsalary consent as required under present Act.
  • However, wage payment through the banking system will only be optional, until State governments or Union Government come up with a notification for specific industries since Labour is in the concurrent list.
  • The present law (1936 Act) states that all payment of wages should be in cash. Under it has mandatory provision asking employers to obtain written permission of the worker to pay either by cheque or by crediting wages to his or her bank account.
Comment

The payment of wages through cheque or DBT of employed persons has twin motives  i.e. it will reduce complaints regarding non-payment or less payment of minimum wages and serve purpose of digital and less cash economy. The move is significant in view of the Union Government is promoting cashless transactions after its decision to scrap the old high value Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. Earlier Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Lok Sabha during 2016 winter session but was not cleared owing to the impasse in Parliament.

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Rajya Sabha passes Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016

Rajya Sabha has passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016. The bill repeals Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

The bill comprehensively covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities under it. It complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India became a signatory in 2007.

Salient features of the bill
  • Definition of disability: It has defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept to include 21 conditions as disable. Expands the list of disabilities from seven to 21.
  • It also defines Persons with benchmark disabilities as those with at least 40% of any of the above specified disabilities.
  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid Attack Victims have been included.
  • Rights of persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities (PwDs) shall have the right to equality. They shall not be discriminated against on grounds of their disability.
  • Rights include protection from inhuman treatment and equal protection and safety in situations of risk, humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters and armed conflict.
  • All existing public buildings shall be made accessible for disabled persons.
  • Education and skill development: It provides for the access to inclusive education, self-employment and vocational training to disabled persons.
  • At least 5% seats in all government institutions of higher education and those getting aid from the government are required to reserve seats for persons with benchmark disabilities. Earlier it was only 3%.
  • Employment: The Union and State governments will ensure that at least 4% of the vacancies in identified establishments are filled by persons or class of persons with at least 40% of any of the disabilities.
  • The reservation must be computed on the basis of total number of vacancies in the strength of a cadre. Government can exempt any establishment from this provision of reservation.
  • Legal Capacity: Disabled persons have the equal right to own and inherit movable and immovable property, as well as control their financial affairs in par with others.
  • Guardianship: The district court may order guardianship to the disable person if found a mentally ill person and not capable of taking care of himself or of taking legally binding decisions.
  • District level committees: It will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  • Central and state advisory boards on Disability: They will be constituted Central and State governments respectively.
  • They will advise governments on policies and programmes on disability. The will aslo review the activities of organisations dealing with disabled persons.
  • National and State Fund: It will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for PwDs and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of PwDs will be subsumed with the National Fund.
  • Punishment: It provides for imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, along with a fine ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh, for discriminating against differently abled persons.

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