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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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Parliament passes Constitution (SCs) order (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Parliament has passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill 2017 after it was passed by Rajya Sabha. It was already passed by Lok Sabha in March 2017.

 The Bill seeks to amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Pondicherry) Scheduled Castes Order, 1964. 

Key Provisions
  • Modify the list of SCs for Odisha: It makes castes Sualgiri, Swalgiri as synonyms to the Sabakhia caste in the list of SCs for the state.
  • Modification of name of Pondicherry: It modifies name of the Union Territory of Pondicherry to Puducherry by incorporating changes in the Constitution (Pondicherry) Scheduled Castes Order, 1964. 
Background

Article 341 of the Constitution empowers the President to specify the Scheduled Castes in various states and UTs.  Further, it permits Parliament to modify this list.

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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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