Bills and Acts in Current Affairs 2017

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Parliament Passes Mental Health Bill, 2016

The Parliament has passed the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 that decriminalises suicide attempt by mentally ill people and guarantees the right to better healthcare for people with mental illness.

It was first passed in Rajya Sabha in August 2016 and later in Lok Sabha in March 2017. Now it will go to president for assent.

Key Features of Bill
  • Rights of persons with mental illness: It gives every person right to access mental healthcare from services operated or funded by the government. It also includes good quality, easy and affordable access to services.
  • It also provides right to equality of treatment, protect such persons from inhuman treatment, access to free legal services, medical records and right to complain in case of deficiencies in provisions.
  • Advance Directive: It empowers a mentally-ill person to have the right to make an advance directive that explains how they want to be treated for the requisite illness and nominate their representative.
  • Mental Health Establishments: Every mental health establishment must register with the respective Central or State Mental Health Authority. For registration, the concerned establishment must fulfill different criteria as mentioned in the Bill.
  • Procedure and process: It also outlines the procedure and process for admission, treatment and subsequent discharge of mentally ill persons.
  • Community based treatment: It focuses on community based treatment and special provisions for women and health.
  • Mental Health Review Commission and Board: It will be quasi-judicial body responsible for reviewing procedure for making advance directives.
  • It will advise the government on the protection of rights of mentally ill persons’. It will constitute Mental Health Review Boards in states’ districts will help of state governments.
  • Decriminalising suicide: It effectively decriminalises suicide attempt under the section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) by mentally ill persons by making it non-punishable
  • Prohibits electro-convulsive therapy: It will be not used for minors. It will be allowed only with the use of anaesthesia.
Background

The Bill is the first mental health law framed as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is signatory. It requires the countries to align their laws with the Convention. The Bill provides “rights-based” approach to mental illness by consolidating and safeguarding the rights of fundamental human rights of the patients. In India, around 6 to 7% of the population suffers from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1 to 2% suffers from acute mental disease.

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Parliament passes The Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The Parliament has passed The Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill amends the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923.

It ensures compensation up to Rs 1 lakh to employee if an injured in an industrial accident and imposes hefty penalty in case of any violation by the employers.

Salient features of the Bill
  • Mandatory for employers to inform the employee of his right to compensation under the Act. Such information must be given in writing at the time of employing him.
  • Employer will be penalised if he fails to inform his employee of his right to compensation. Such penalty may be between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.
  • Raises amount in dispute related to compensation, distribution of compensation, award of penalty or interest, etc to Rs. 10, 000. It permits the central government to further raise this amount.
  • Provision of withholding payments pending appeal if an employer has appealed against a Commissioner’s order has been deleted.
The Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923
  • It provides payment of compensation to employees and their dependants in the case of injury by industrial accidents, including occupational diseases.
  • It provides that any dispute related to an employee’s compensation will be heard by a Commissioner (with powers of a civil court).
  • Under it, appeals from the Commissioner’s order, related to a substantial question of law, will lie before the High Court only if amount in dispute is at least Rs. 300.

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Government to enact law to enforce dam safety regulations

The Union Water Resources Ministry has drafted new dam safety bill to contemplate an institutional mechanism to improve safety of around 5300-odd dams across in India.

The new law has been vetted by the Union Law Ministry. It will now go to the Union Cabinet for approval and its introduction in Parliament. 

Need for such law

  • There are around 4900 large dams in India and several thousand smaller ones. However, large reservoirs and water storage structures, in the past few decades, are not seen as a model of safety.
  • The failure of these dams due to lack of safety could cause massive disaster such as the 1979 Machchu dam failure in Morbi, Gujarat, in which estimated 25,000 people were killed.
  • Recent analysis of the state of India’s dams also has found that half of them did not meet contemporary safety standards. So there is need of much stricter safety criteria.

Key facts

  • Currently, dam safety guidelines are not effectively enforced by the States. The dam safety bill, proposes a Central authority and State-level bodies that will enforce regulation.
  • It proposes safety criteria including increasing the spillway (a design structure to ease water build-up) and preventing ‘over-topping’ in which the dam overflows and causes it to fail.
  • It also proposes fine on dam and project proponents in the fall short, though they are unlikely to face imprisonment.

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