Constitution & Law Current Affairs - 2020

Summary of latest bill and acts passed or pending in 2019 in Parliament of India with their salient features and issues for Current Affairs 2019 preparation for various examinations such as UPSC, SSC, State Civil Services, CLAT, Judicial Services etc.

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Lok Sabha passes Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Lok Sabha has passed Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amidst strong objection from Opposition with 218 members voting in its favour and 79 against it.

Summary: The bill seeks to amend certain provisions of landmark transparency law- Right to Information Act, 2005 so as to empower central government on deciding terms of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) at both central and state levels, as well as have a say on salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service.

Key Features of Amendment Bill

Term & Conditions of Service: Bill allows Central government to notify term of office for Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) while as per RTI Act, 2005, CIC at the central level and ICs at state level will hold office for a term of 5 years.

Quantum of Salary: Bill proposes that salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of CIC and ICs will be determined by central government. While as per RTI Act the salary of CIC and ICs will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC) respectively.

Deductions in Salary: As per RTI Act, 2005 at time of the appointment of CIC and ICs, if they are receiving pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to pension. The RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 removes these provisions.

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Lok Sabha passed Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019

Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah has been passed by Lok Sabha. The Bill amends Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 that provides for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC) and Human Rights Courts.

Key Features of Amendment

Composition of NHRC: Under Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, chairperson of NHRC is a person who has been Chief Justice of Supreme Court but Bill amends this provision to person who has been Chief Justice of Supreme Court, or Judge of Supreme Court will be chairperson of NHRC. This means Supreme Court judge besides CJI can also be appointed Chairperson of NHRC.

Number of members of NHRC increased from two to three

Act provides for 2 persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of NHRC but Bill amends this provision to allow 3 members to be appointed as members of NHRC. Also, At least one of 3 members of NHRC should be a woman

Members of NHRC: Under the Act, chairpersons of commissions like National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), and National Commission for Women (NCW) are members of NHRC. The Ammendement Bill provides for including chairpersons of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) as well as Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) as NHRC members.

Chairperson of SHRC: At present SHRC chairperson is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court but Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice/Judge of High Court will be chairperson of SHRC.

Term of office: As per the Act chairperson and members of NHRC and SHRC will hold office for 5 years or till 70 years of age or whichever is earlier. Bill reduces term of office to 3 years or till 70 years of age, whichever is earlier.  Moreover the bill removes the 5 year limit for reappointment unlike the present act that allows for reappointment of members of NHRC and SHRCs for a period of 5 years.

Powers of Secretary-General: Bill seeks to amend the current provision of Secretary-General of NHRC and a Secretary of SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them, to allowing the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to respective chairperson’s control.

Union Territories: Bill provides that central government may confer on SHRC human rights functions being discharged by UTs and the functions relating to human rights in case of Delhi will be dealt with by NHRC.

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