Bills and Acts in Current Affairs 2017

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Agriculture Ministry unveils model APMC Act

In order to give more freedom to farmers to sell their produce, the agriculture ministry has unveiled “The State/UT Agricultural Produce and Livestocks Marketing (promotion and facilitation) Act, 2017” which has defined each state/UT as a single unified market area. The draft law is proposed to overhaul the existing laws.

So far 26 states and Union Territories, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, have fully or partly modified their APMC laws. Other than Bihar, all other states/UTs have agreed to adopt the model Act.

Salient Highlights

The model act proposes to curb the role of APMC mandis. The existing APMC mandis are allowed to enforce regulation only in their market yard and thus encouraging private sector players to set up mandis. Traders would be able to transact in all markets within a state by paying a single fee.

The model law on agricultural marketing would introduce features like single market within a state, private wholesale markets, direct sale by farmers to bulk buyers, and promotion of electronic trading etc.

As agricultural marketing is a state subject and is governed by their respective Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts, the states are free to adopt portions or the entire model act. The state governments as per the draft law are required to appoint an independent entity ‘director of agricultural marketing’ who would function as a sole authority to grant the licence for the establishment of a new market yard in the state concerned.

The new Act proposes to put a cap on mandi taxes at 1% for foodgrain and 2% for fruits and vegetables as well as commission agent’s levy at 2% of the total transaction cost.

Need

Due to the monopoly of APMCs, farmers do not have a choice to sell their farm produce to multiple buyers. The model act will provide several marketing channels to sell agricultural produce. The model act aims to liberalize trade in farm produce and aid better price realization for farmers.

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Parliament passes HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017

Parliament has passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017. It is the first national HIV law in South Asia.

The Bill seeks to safeguard the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV. It aims to prevent social stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Key Provisions
  • Prevention and control the spread of HIV and AIDS. It prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS.
  • Privacy of PLHIV: No person will be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order.
  • Establishments keeping records of information of PLHIV must adopt data protection measures.
  • Prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and PLHIV.
  • Safeguarding Rights: Obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV arid create mechanisms for redressing complaints.
  • Strengthen legal accountability and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances to probe discrimination complaints against those who discriminate against PLHIV.
  • It ensures that no HIV test, medical treatment or research is conducted on a person without his informed consent.
  • Grounds of discrimination: Lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited.
  • These include the denial, discontinuation, termination or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, renting property etc.
  • Bans unfair treatment of people living with and affected by HIV with regard to accessing public facilities, such as shops, hotels, restaurants, public entertainment venues, public facilities and burial grounds.
  • Pre-requisite HIV testing: Prohibits, requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education. 
Background

There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India. The prevalence of HIV in India is decreasing since last decade but percentage of PLHIV receiving Anti-Retroviral therapy (ART) treatment is merely 28.82% against global percentage of 41%. The Bill will provide essential support to National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in arresting new spread of HIV infections and thereby achieving the target of “Ending the epidemic by 2030” to meet goal Sustainable Development Goals.

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Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill, 2017 passed in Lok Sabha

Lok Sabha has passed Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill, 2017 which seeks to give constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes. The bill was passed by the house with 360 MPs voting in favor and 2 against the bill.

Objectives of the Bill

The Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill seeks to make the following changes:

  • It seeks to insert a new article 338B in the constitution which provides for NCBC, its composition, mandate, functions and various officers.
  • Insert a new article 342-A which empowers the president to notify the list of socially and educationally backward classes of that state / union territory. In case of a state, president will make such notification after consultation with the Governor. Under the same article, it is proposed that parliament by making a law can include or exclude the classes from the central list of backward classes.

Background

The government had created a Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes via a resolution in 1987. It was given constitutional status by passing Constitution (65th amendment) Act, 1990, leading to creation of National Commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) in 1992. Via the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003; the NCSCST was split into two different commissions viz. NCSC and NCST by inserting Article 338-A. NCSC was mandated to look into the grievances and complaints of backward classes also. However, in 1992, the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney case had directed the government to create a permanent body to entertain, examine and recommend the inclusion and exclusion of various Backward Classes for the purpose of benefits and protection. Towards this, the parliament passed National Commission for Backward Classes Act in 1993 and constituted the National Commission for Backward Classes as a statutory body. Currently, this body is responsible to look into the inclusion and exclusion of backward classes only. To safeguard the interests of these classes more effectively, there was a need to give constitutional status to NCBC. For this purpose, the above said amendment has been introduced and passed in Lok Sabha. The bill will now need to be passed in Rajya Sabha to become act.

Since the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 becomes irrelevant  once this bill becomes an act; Lok Sabha has also passed a separate bill to repeal that act.

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