Lok Sabha Current Affairs - 2020

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Lok Sabha passes Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019

Lok Sabha has passed Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from the present 30 to 33 (excluding Chief Justice of India). The Bill amends Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Ac, 1956. It helps to meet long standing demand of increasing strength of Supreme Court judges to resolve number of pending cases can be brought down substantially.

Salient features of Bill

The Bill to increase strength of Supreme Court judges by 10% i.e. to 33 from present 30 (excluding Chief Justice of India).

As of now full sanctioned strength of SC is 31 (including CJI). Once this bill gets in Rajya Sabha also and gets full parliamentary nod and presidential assent, the number of judges would go up to 34, including the CJI.

The purpose of increasing in number of judges is to allow Supreme Court to function more efficiently and effictively towards attaining the ultimate goal of of rendering speedy jusstice to the litigants.

Background

The strength of Supreme Court is fixed by law enacted Parliament as per Article 124 (1) of Constitution of India. Therefore, strength of Supreme Court judges can be increased by way of parliamentary legislation. For this purpose Parliament has enacted Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956, which originally provided for maximum of 10 judges (excluding CJI). This number was increased to 13 by Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960 and to 17 in 1977.

However till the end of 1979, the working strength of Supreme Court was restricted to 15 judges (excluding CJI) by cabinet. But the restriction was later withdrawn at request of CJI. In 1986, strength of Supreme Court was increased to 25, excluding CJI. Subsequently, Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further increased strength of Supreme Court judges from 25 to 30 (excluding CJI).

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Lok Sabha passes The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019

Lok Sabha passed Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 that aims to ban commercial surrogacy in India by a voice vote. The bill aims to ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy, and allow ethical surrogacy. It also seeks to prohibit exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy

Salient Features of Bill

Bans commercial surrogacy: It completely bans commercial surrogacy, including sale and purchase of human embryos and gametes, but allows ethical altruistic surrogacy for needy couples on fulfillment of stipulated conditions.

Definition of surrogacy: It has been defined as practice in which woman gives birth to child for intending couple with the intention to hand over the child to the intending couple after the birth.

Altruistic surrogacy: It is allowed and has been defined as surrogacy wherein only medical expenses and insurance coverage is provided by couple to surrogate mother during pregnancy and no other monetary consideration.

Permits Surrogacy: It permits surrogacy for intending couples who are suffering from proven infertility. It does not permit for commercial purposes, altruistic purpose, not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation etc.

Regulatory bodies: It proposes to regulate surrogacy in the country by establishing National Surrogacy Board (NSB) at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories. Functions of the NSB include, (i) advice central government on policy matters related to surrogacy; (ii) lay down code of conduct of surrogacy clinics and (iii) supervise functioning of SSBs.

Eligible couples for Surrogacy: It allows surrogacy for infertile married Indian couples only (married for at least 5 years). In this case, male must be between 26-55 years and female must be between 23-50 years and they should not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate).

Surrogate Mother: It allows only close relative of eligible intended couple to be surrogate mother, having been married, having child of her own and must be between 25 and 35 years. Besides, she can be surrogate mother only once in lifetime and cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy. She mus also possess certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy.

Exemptions: It allows surrogacy for only Indian citizens and bans foreigners, NRI and PIOs from opting for surrogacy in India. It also bans single parents and homosexuals and also couple who already have children from surrogacy.

Parentage and abortion of surrogate child: Child born out of surrogacy procedure will be deemed to be biological child of intended couple.  In case of abortion of the surrogate child, there is mandatory requirement of written consent of surrogate mother andauthorisation of the appropriate authority compliant with Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. It gives surrogate mother option to withdraw from surrogacy before embryo is implanted in her womb.

Punishments: It has been prescribed for undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy,  exploiting the surrogate mother, abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child and selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy. Penalty for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and fine up to Rs. 10 lakh rupees. It also specifies range of offences and penalties for other contraventions of the provisions of the Bill.

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