Bills & Acts Current Affairs 2017 - Current Affairs Today

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  • Government to give proxy voting rights to over 25 million Non Resident Indians

    The government has decided to give proxy voting rights to over 25 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) spread across the world, Attorney general KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court. The Election Commission of India had already recommended that the government take necessary steps to amend the law for NRI voters. It had prepared a report titled ‘Exploring Feasibility of Alternative Options for Voting by Overseas Electors’ and presented it to the court in October 2014.

    Telangana State Assembly passes Police Protection Bill

    Telangana State Assembly passed the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral traffic offenders and Landgrabbers (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The Assembly also passed the Telangana Road Development Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 for development of roads and highways by securing funds from financial institutions and the Shops an Establishments (Amendment) Act, 2017 to give instant licenses to shops and commercial establishments as part of Ease of Doing Business.

    US Supreme Court allows President Trump to implement refugee ban

    The US Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump to implement broadly a ban on refugees entering the country from around the world. All nine SC justices agreed with the Trump administration to block a federal appeals court ruling that exempted refugees with contractual relationships with resettlement organisations from the ban. Already President signed revised executive order in March that banned travellers from six Muslim-majority countries namely Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - for 90 days and locked out most refugees for 120 days.

    British Parliament Passed EU Withdrawal Bill

    The Union Government to extract the UK from EU law in time for Brexit passed its first Parliamentary test. The EU Withdrawal Bill was backed by MPs by 326 to 290. The bill which will end the supremacy of EU law in the UK now moves onto its next Parliamentary stage. It was previously referred to as the Great Repeal Bill, the EU Withdrawal Bill overturns the 1972 European Communities Act which took the UK into the then European Economic Community.

    Coconut regains 'tree' status in Goa as Assembly Passes Bill

    The Goa Legislative Assembly passed a bill which regains coconut as a `tree, ensuring legal protection. The Assembly, on the last day of Monsoon session, passed the Goa, Daman, and Diu (Preservation of) Trees Act, 1984 to regulate felling of coconut trees and reclassify it as a tree. The previous Laxmikant Parsekar-led government changed the classification of a coconut tree to a `palm.

    Union Parliament passes IIIT (Amendment) Bill, 2017

    The Union Parliament passes Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The Bill modifies the composition of the search-cum-selection committee which recommends names to the Central Government. It permits the Board of Governor of Institutes to appoint Assistant Professors and all the posts above that level as well.

    Lok Sabha passes two key bills for implementation of GST in Jammu and Kashmir

    The Lok Sabha passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, 2017 and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax. The first bill provides for the extension of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017 to  Jammu and Kashmir. Under this different constitution procedure, President Pranab Mukherjee introduced two ordinances regarding the introduction of the GST.

    Union Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Bill

    The Union Parliament passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with Rajya Sabha approving it Lok Sabha  The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 by extending the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.

    President Pranab Mukkerjee approves Legislative Bill to ban hookah bar in Gujarat

    President Pranab Mukherjee approved a Legislative Bill to ban the hookah bar in Gujarat. The main aim of the government is to protect the youth from this dangerous addiction, which causes various types of cancer. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2017 passed by the Gujarat Assembly in February and sent to Governor O P Kohli. As per the new Act, running a hookah bar in Gujarat will charge a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 and a jail term up three years.

    Cabinet gives approval for introduction of Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017 and NCBC (Repeal) Bill, 2017

    The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given (I) Ex-post facto approval for introduction of (i) Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill 2017 and (ii) National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament; and (II) Approval for retention of posts/incumbents and office premises held by the existing National Commission for Backward Classes which was proposed new National Commission for Backward Class Repeal of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 along with Savings Clause for namely the National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017.  Article 338B for socially and educationally backward classes by name of National Commission for Backward Classesinsertion of Clause (26C) under Article 366 with modified definition.

    Government Officially Launches BS-IV Grade Fuel Across India after BS-III ban

    Following the Supreme Court's ruling to ban the sale of BS-III compliant vehicles in the country, the Government of India has now launched Bharat stage (BS) -IV grade fuel across the nation. Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (I/C) for Petroleum and Natural Gas, formally launched BS-IV grade transportation fuels from Bhubaneswar, Odisha on 1st of April 2017. Aim of Bharat stage (BS) -IV :- It sets target of ushering in BS-VI fuel by April 2020 by skipping BS-V fuel. All state-run oil marketing companies will provide BS-IV-compliant fuel at their 53,500 retail fuel stations across the country. BS-IV fuels:- BS-IV fuels contain far less sulphur than BS-III fuel. Sulphur in fuel makes it dirtier and lowers the efficiency of catalytic converters, which control emissions. The BS-IV complaint vehicles release less pollutants Carbon Mono-oxide (CO), Hydrocarbon (HC), Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), Sulphur (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) compared to BS III complaint vehicles. About Bharat stage emission standards:- 1) BS emission standards are emission standards instituted by the Union Government to regulate output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and spark ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles. 2) The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change (MoEFCC). 3) The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. 4) Since then, various stages Bharat Stage compatible fuel and ungraded and modified vehicles were introduced throughout the country. 5) Each stage specifies a certain limit on the pollutants released, Higher the Bharat Stage goes lesser it emits pollutants. BS-I, BS-II and BS-III stages were launched in 2000, 2005 and 2010 respectively. 6) The harmful emissions that are identified for regulations in different Bharat Stages (BS) are carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate matter (PM).

    GST: Tax evasion over Rs 5 crore a non-bailable offence

    Tax evasion exceeding an amount of Rs 5 crore under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime will be a non-bailable offence with the police having the authority to arrest persons without a warrant. The earlier threshold for treating tax evasion as a cognizable and non-bailable offence was proposed to be at Rs 2.5 crore. The Central GST (CGST) Act provides that if the offences relating to taxable goods and/or services where the amount of tax evaded or the amount of input tax credit wrongly availed or the amount of refund wrongly taken exceeds Rs 5 crore, then they will be cognizable and non-bailable. The government has set a target date of July 1 for roll out of the GST, which will subsume central excise, service tax, VAT and other local levies. The GST is administered & governed by GST Council and its Chairman is Union Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley.

    Lok Sabha passes Finance Bill 2017 without including Rajya Sabha’s proposed amendments

    The Parliament passed the Finance Bill 2017, even as the Lok Sabha rejected the amendments to the Bill suggested by the Rajya Sabha. Key amendments in the Finance Bill 2017: >  The Centre has included amendments to the Income Tax Act, which gives more power to the tax officials. The I-T department will not be required to disclose reasons for carrying out I-T raids or check. > The Finance Bill also entails unlimited and anonymous corporate funding for political parties. Earlier, the upper limit for donations was capped, which has been removed now. > Also, the donations will remain anonymous. Donations from foreign entities too will not be disclosed. > The Bill has also amended the Representation of People’s Act, which governs election. > Another amendment merges various tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies), which examine appeals of regulatory decisions. The government can now provide for qualification, appointments, removal, etc. for the tribunal members – this means the government will have arbitrary power over the tribunal. > The Bill also makes Aadhaar mandatory for getting a PAN card and for filing income-tax returns. > The Bill also reduced cash transaction limit to Rs 2 lakh from earlier Rs 3 lakh. Union Finance Minister: Arun Jaitley Lok sabha speaker: Sumitra Mahajan Rajya sabha speaker: Hamid Ansari

    Parliament passes Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016; decriminalises suicide

    The Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, that provides for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness, and also decriminalises suicide, secured parliamentary approval with the Lok Sabha's assent to the legislation. The bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha in August 2016, ensures every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government. It also assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or poor, even if they do not possess a Below Poverty Line card. One of the clauses in the bill decriminalises suicide, stating that a person who attempts suicide should be presumed to have severe stress, and shall not be punished. As per the bill, it will be government's duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of any attempt. The bill also provides that a person with mental illness will have the right to make an advance directive that states how he she wants to be treated for the illness and nominate a representative. An estimated 6-7% of the country’s population suffers from some kind of mental illness, while 1-2% has an acute condition. SALIENT FEATURES OF THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE BILL:- 1) Decriminalising attempt to commit suicide 2) Bans use of electric shock therapy for treating children with mental illness 3) Permits conditional use of shock therapy on adults, after being given anaesthesia, muscle relaxants 4) Emphasises on ensuring no intrusion of rights and dignity of people with mental illness Union Minister for Health and Family Welfares: J P Nadda

    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. 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. 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.

    Union Cabinet approved amendments to existing Acts to facilitate implementation of GST

    The Union Cabinet gave its approval to amend three existing Acts to facilitate the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. The approval was given at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 March 2017 in New Delhi. Following are the three existing Acts which will be amended by the Parliament. The Customs Act, 1962 The Customs Tariff Act, 1975 The Central Excise Act, 1944 Besides, the Cabinet gave its approval to repeal the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985. Insertion of Sections 108A and 108B in the Customs Act, 1962 seeks to provide for furnishing of information relating to import or export of goods by specified persons. This amendment will enable analysis and detection of cases of under or over-valuation in imports and exports, misuse of export promotion schemes including the Drawback Scheme. It will also lead to detection of violations of the provisions of the Customs Act and various other laws under which customs officials have been authorized to effectively implement these laws Amendments or repeal of various provisions of other Acts will result in cleansing of the irrelevant portions from the statute book and reduce multiplicity of taxes. Goods and Services Tax : Goods and Services Tax is one indirect tax for the whole nation, which will make India one unified common market. It is a single tax on the supply of goods and services, right from the manufacturer to the consumer.The benefits of GST are multifold. The new tax regime leads to uniformity of tax rates and structures, improved competitiveness in the industry and relief in overall tax burden to the consumer. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is expected to be rolled out on 1 July 2017 after the passage of the necessary laws by the Parliament.  

    Union Cabinet approves proposal for amendments to NABARD Act, 1981

    The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 22 March 2017 approved the proposal for Amendments to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Act, 1981. Highlights : Amendments to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act, 1981 include provisions that enable Union Government to increase the authorized capital of NABARD from Rs 5000 crore to Rs 30000 crore. It also proposes to increase the authorised capital beyond Rs 30000 crore in consultation with RBI, as deemed necessary from time to time.  It also proposes the transfer of 0.4 per cent shareholding of RBI in NABARD to the Union Government. The shareholding of RBI amounts to Rs 20 crore. The proposed amendments also include changes in the long title and certain Sections to bring Medium Enterprises and Handlooms in NABARD’s mandate.  The proposed increase in the authorized capital of NABARD will allow the organisation to respond to the commitments it has undertaken, particularly in respect of the Long Term Irrigation Fund and the recent Cabinet decision regarding on-lending to cooperative banks.  It will also enable NABARD to augment its business and enhance its activities to facilitate promotion of integrated rural development and securing prosperity of rural areas including generation of more employment. The transfer of entire shareholding in NABARD held by RBI to the Union Government will remove the conflict in RBI's role as banking regulator and shareholder in NABARD.  

    RS passes HIV, AIDS Bill, 2014 by voice vote

    The upper house of Indian Parliament, Rajya Sabha passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014 by voice vote on 21 March 2017.  The bill, which includes provisions that ensure equal rights to people afflicted by HIV and AIDS in getting treatment and admission in educational institutions and jobs, was introduced in the house on the same day.  Highlights  : The bill was introduced in the house by the Union Health Minister, J P Nadda. It was originally introduced by the UPA government in February 2014 after consultations with people in 29 ministries and 21 departments.  Explaining the provisions of the bill, Nadda stated that it will give legislative backing to the people living with HIV and prohibit the feeling of hatred.   It will ensure that every HIV infected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy its facilities.   It also prohibits discrimination against HIV positive persons on grounds like denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services and residing or renting property. Further, replying to concerns of some members of the house including Congress leader Jairam Ramesh regarding clause 14 of the bill that says ‘as far as possible’ for providing treatment to those having HIV/AIDS by the Centre and the State, the health minister stated that the bill will ensure that nobody is denied treatment. While the bill received overwhelming support in the house, members emphasized on the need to provide higher budgetary allocation for National AIDS Control Organization and blood banks and the need to include sex education in school as a part of the syllabus in order make students more aware and cautious.

    Union Cabinet approves four GST Bills

    The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the four Goods and Services Tax (GST) related bills. These Bills were earlier approved by the GST Council after clause by clause, discussion over 12 meetings in past 6 months. The passage of these four GST related bills will pave the way for the biggest reform in the area of Indirect Taxes in the history of the country. The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (CGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy and collection of tax on intra-state supply of goods or services for both by the Union Government. The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (IGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy and collection of tax on inter-state supply of goods or services or both by the Union Government. The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (UTGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy on collection of tax on intra-UT supply of goods and services in the UTs without legislature. It is akin to States Goods and Services Tax (SGST) that will enacted by state legislatures for levy and collection of tax by the States/UTs on intra-state supply of goods or services or both. The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to the States) Bill 2017 (The Compensation Bill): It provides for compensation to states for loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the GST for a period of five years as per section 18 of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016. The Union Government is trying for early introduction of GST, one of the biggest taxation reforms in the country as early as possible. GST Council headed by Union Finance Minister earlier had set 1 July 2017 as the date of commencement of GST. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2017-18 Budget Speech had mentioned that country-wide outreach efforts will be made to explain the provisions of GST to Trade and Industry. GST  : GST regime will amalgamate large number of Central and State indirect taxes into a single tax. It will mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market. It will help in the realization of the objective of “One Nation, One Tax” and improve the Ease of Doing Business in the country.  It will also indirectly benefit people of the country by reducing the tax burden especially on the daily consumer items. The GST will bring in more transparency and efficiency by minimizing of human interface in the tax administration in the country.  It is also likely to lead to a reduction in tax evasion as a result of the computerization of the taxation process. It will in turn lead to increase in revenue collection for the Centre and the States.  

    Pakistani President promulgates Hindu Marriage bill into law

    Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain on 19 March 2017 promulgated the Hindu Marriage bill into a law. The Act seeks to protect Hindu marriages and family rights. The Hindu Marriage Act of Pakistan will regulate marriages of Hindus, who are the minority in Pakistan. In short, this marriage act is the first personal law in Pakistan for Hindu residents of the country. As per reports, the Bill was signed into an Act by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Highlights of the Hindu Marriage Act of Pakistan : The Act prohibits marriage of minors. It prescribes a minimum age of 18-years for contracting marriage in addition to protecting the customs and customary rites of the Hindu community.It also introduces the concept of judicial separation. The legitimacy of children born out of the void and voidable Hindu marriages has also been protected under the bill. It also allows Hindu women to have a documentary proof of their marriage. Earlier in February 2017, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016. The bill was passed after amendments which were made by the Senate. The law will be applicable in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bill was tabled before the house by Minister of Human Rights Kamran Michael. While presenting the bill in the house, Michael said, the decision was taken by the ministry of human rights to protect the rights of minorities of Pakistan.  Earlier, Sindh province had introduced its own version of the Hindu marriage law.  

    GST Council approves States and UTs GST Bills

    GST Council meeting presided by Finance Minister Arun Gaitley has approved draft Bills for implementing the goods and services tax (GST) in States and Union Territories (UTs).  It was the 12th meeting of the GST Council. The Council already has approved three other GST Bills pertaining to central GST, integrated GST and the compensation to be paid to States for loss of revenue.  The approval of these bills paves the way for the Centre and the States to pilot GST, the new indirect tax system, proposed to be introduced from July 1, 2017 through Parliament and the state assemblies. The Council also approved the ceiling rates for the cess to be levied on top of the maximum GST rate of 28% on demerit or sin goods. Four tax rates (ceilings) 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% have been proposed under the GST. It also proposed 15% ceiling on the cess to be levied on aerated drinks and luxury cars over and above the maximum proposed GST rate of 28%.  It also proposed separate cess ceilings for pan masala and tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and cigarettes. However, Beedis have been kept out of the GST net. It also decided to make the tax treatment of items produced in special economic zones (SEZs) similar to that on exports. Procurement of supplies by SEZs will be zero-rated. GST is proposed uniform indirect taxation regime throughout the country. It was approved by The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016. It will merge most of the existing indirect taxes into single system of taxation. It is consumption based tax levied on the supply of Goods and Services which will be levied and collected at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or services based on the input tax credit method.  

    Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill, 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha

    The Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 14 March 2017 introduced the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) Bill, 2017 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill is aimed at declaring the FDDI as an Institution of National Importance (INI). Provisions of the Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill, 2017 :  It proposes that FDDI shall be established as a body corporate. The existing institute is centrally-funded for meeting its capital expenditure.It aims to facilitate and promote teaching, training and research in all disciplines relating to design and development of Footwear and leather products. It will enable FDDI to emerge as Centre of Excellence meeting international standards.The institute shall consist of a Governing Council having a Chairperson who shall be an eminent academician, scientist or industrialist from the leather sector. The Chairperson shall be nominated by the Union Government. The Union Government shall have the power to remove the  Chairperson or other members or can reconstitute the Governing Council as well.  The FDDI will develop and conduct courses leading to graduate and post-graduate degrees, doctoral and post-doctoral courses and research in the areas of footwear and leather products. The institute will conduct skill development programmes and provide technical assistance to artisans, craftsmen, manufacturers, designers and exporters. Footwear Design & Development Institute : The Footwear Design & Development Institute was established in 1986 with the objective of providing trained human resource and assistance to the sector.  It has a pan-India presence with campuses at Noida, Kolkata, Chennai, Fursatganj (UP), Rohtak (Haryana), Chhindwara (M.P) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) equipped with state of art academic facilities and infrastructure.  Its new campuses at Hyderabad, Patna, Ankleshwar (Gujarat), Banur(Punjab) and Guna (M.P) would also start functioning shortly.  

    UK parliament gives final approval for Brexit bill

    UK’s House of Lords gave its final approval on the Brexit bill on 13 March 2017, thereby paving way for the Theresa May government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, the legal method to initiate UK’s exit from the European Union. The bill had faced opposition in the UK’s House of Commons over its inability to protect rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Highlights : The upper house in its final reading that voted in favour of a meaningful parliamentary vote on the final terms of Brexit. The objections of the Peers were completely overturned by the MPs in the House of Lords, who voted 274 to 118 in favour of the bill being passed unaltered. The bill is expected to receive Royal Assent and become a law on 14 March 2017.The bill’s passing enables Theresa May to formally initiate the Brexit process this week itself. The process would involve almost two years of talks, which will end with Britain becoming the first country to leave the European Union bloc. This decision comes in the wake of protests from Scotland, whose First Minister has demanded for a new independence reference between the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019.

    Lok Sabha passes the Enemy Property Bill 2016

    Lok Sabha on 14 March 2017 passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016. The bill was earlier passed with some amendments by the Rajya Sabha on 10 March 2017. The amendments to the bill were moved in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The Bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government. With this passage in both the houses of Parliament, the Bill will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his approval. Mukherjee's nod on the bill will turn it into an Act. Highlights of the Enemy Property Bill 2016 :  It guards against the claims of succession or transfer of the properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after wars. The Bill seeks to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests in enemy property in the Custodian. It also declares transfer of enemy property by the enemy, conducted under the Act, to be void. This applies retrospectively to transfers that have occurred before or after 1968. As per the amendments, once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death. After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian's powers. The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or enemy firm. Before passage in the two houses, Rajnath Singh clarified that the legislation does not violate the principles of natural justice and human rights. In the case of mistakes, where any property is declared as the enemy property, the affected party has the right to move to the grievance redressal mechanism, which is provided in the bill. Besides, he also clarified that no enemy property has been disposed of so far by the custodian.

    Lok Sabha passed Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016

    The Lok Sabha on 10 March 2017 passed the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016. The Bill seeks to establish a legal framework to consolidate the existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, arrest of vessels and related issues. The intended legislation also repeals the following five obsolete British statues on admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters. i. The Admiralty Court Act, 1840 ii. The Admiralty Court Act, 1861 iii. The Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890 iv. The Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1891 v. The provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865 The repealing of five admiralty statutes is in line with the government's commitment to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance. Highlights :  The bill confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal States of India and this jurisdiction extends up to territorial waters. The jurisdiction is extendable, by a Central Government notification, up to exclusive economic zone or any other maritime zone of India or islands constituting part of the territory of India.It applies to every vessel irrespective of place of residence or domicile of the owner. Inland vessels and vessels under construction are excluded from its application, but the Central Government is empowered to make it applicable to these vessels also by a notification if necessary.It does not apply to warships and naval auxiliary and vessels used for non-commercial purposes. The jurisdiction is for adjudicating on a set of maritime claims listed in the bill  In order to ensure security against a maritime claim, a vessel can be arrested in certain circumstances. The liability in respect of selected maritime claims on a vessel passes on to its new owners by way of maritime liens subject to a stipulated time limit. In respect of aspects on which provisions are not laid down in the bill, the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is applicable.

    GST Council approves the CGST Bill and IGST Bill

    The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on 4 March 2017 approved the draft Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Bill and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Bill. With this, the Union Government can now take these two Bills to the Parliament for their passage in the Budget Session. A State-wise single registration will be required for a taxpayer for filing returns, paying taxes and to fulfil other compliance requirements.  A taxpayer needs to file one single return state-wise to report all his supplies, whether made within or outside the State or exported out of the country and pay the applicable taxes on them.  A business entity with an annual turnover of up to Rs 20 lakhs will not be required to take registration in the GST regime, unless he voluntarily chooses to do so to be a part of the input tax credit (ITC) chain.  A business entity with turnover up to Rs 50 lakhs can avail the benefit of a composition scheme under which a much lower rate of tax will be paid.   In order to prevent cascading of taxes, ITC would be admissible on all goods and services used in the course or furtherance of business, except on a few items listed in the Law. In the Services sector, the existing mechanism of Input Service Distributor (ISD) under the Service Tax law is retained to allow the flow of ITC in respect of input services within a legal entity. To prevent lock-in of capital of exporters, a provision has been made to refund within seven days of filing the application for refund by an exporter. An agriculturist, to the extent of supply of produce out of cultivation of land, will not be liable to take registration in the GST regime. In order to provide certainty in tax matters, a provision has been made for an Advance Ruling Authority.Exhaustive provisions for Appellate mechanism have been made. An anti-profiteering provision has been incorporated to ensure that the reduction of tax incidence is passed on to the consumers.

    West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017 passed

    The State Legislative Assembly has passed the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017, by a voice vote. It repeals the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010. It aims to overhaul private healthcare in state and take stringent measures against health institutions accused of medical negligence and corrupt practices. The legislation seeks to bring transparency, end harassment of patients and check medical negligence in private hospitals and nursing homes. It brings clinics, dispensaries and polyclinics under its ambit. It makes mandatory for private hospitals to pay compensations in case of medical negligence. Hospitals violating this law will be liable to pay fine of Rs. 10 lakh or more. Compensation in case medical negligence: Rs 3 lakh for minor damages, Rs 5 lakh for big damages and minimum Rs. 10 lakh in case of death. This compensation will be given within six months. The compensation amount will not be more than Rs 50 lakh. Regulatory Authority: Establishes 13 member West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission to monitor activities of private hospitals. The high-powered commission will be headed by sitting or former judge. It will have status of a civil court. It will be empowered to summon both parties in case of a dispute and examine case before passing an order. Penal measures: It ranges between compensation and scrapping the licence of the physician/hospital. The commission can put offender behind bars up to 3 years. It can also order trying the offender under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions if it deems fit. Fair Pricing: Hospitals with more than 100 beds must start fair price medicine shops. They are mandated to declare bed charges, ICU charges and package costs which can’t be altered.  

    Government notifies Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017

    The Union Government has notified the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 to prohibit the holding, transferring or receiving of scrapped old Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes from 31 December, 2016,  This law makes possession of more than a certain number of the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes a criminal offence. It ends the liability of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government on the demonetised Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes. It prohibits the holding, transferring or receiving of demonitised notes from 31 December, 2016 and confers power on the court of a first class magistrate to impose the penalty.  Possessing more than 10 pieces of old notes by individuals and more than 25 pieces for study, research or numismatics purposes will attract a fine of Rs. 10,000 or five times the value of cash held, whichever is higher. Fine of a minimum of Rs, 50,000 will be imposed for a false declaration by persons for being abroad during the demonetisation period (9 November-30 December, 2016). The Union Government had demonetised old Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 notes from November 2016 on the recommendations of the RBI’s central board to eliminate unaccounted money and fake currency notes from the financial system. As a follow up, The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 was passed by Parliament in February 2017 and received assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on 27 February 2017. The law aims to eliminating the possibility of running a parallel economy using demonetised currency notes.  The demonetisation had abruptly sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation in the form of Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 out of the system.

    GST Council approved bill to reimburse revenue loss to States

    The GST Council on 18 February 2017 approved a bill to compensate States for any loss of revenue due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This approval by the GST Council paves the way for the roll out of the GST on 1 July 2017. Goods and Services Tax :  The GST is a single indirect tax. It subsumes most of the Central and State taxes such as the Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duty, service tax and central sales tax.  The benefits of GST : GST will bring uniformity in the tax structure across the country.  It helps the government to reach the goal of – ‘One Nation, One Tax.’ Once it is fully implemented, the proposed tax is expected to contribute to the additional 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). It will also help the administrators in curbing tax evasion. The President Pranab Mukherjee approved the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016 in September 2016. The Act, amended various provisions of the Constitution paving way for the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) across the country.  As per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution, the GST Council has to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of Article 279A. Consequently, a notification was issued by the Union Ministry of Finance on 10 September 2016 regarding the formation of the GST Council. The Council is the apex body that takes decisions on all important decisions related to the GST, including items and rates. The Union Finance Minister is the Chairperson of the council. The Union Minister of State, in-charge of the Revenue in the Finance Ministry, and the Minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government are the members of the council.

    Gujarat Assembly passes Aadhaar Bill, 2017

    The Gujarat Assembly on 20 February 2017 passed the Gujarat Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2017. However, the Bill was passed in the absence of nearly 48 MLAs of the Congress who were suspended from the House by the Speaker for creating ruckus. Highlights : The Bill empowers the state government to use Aadhaar number as the sole identifier for the delivery of various subsidies and benefits in an effective and targeted manner. The government plan to link the Aadhaar number with various schemes which will help the government create a credible system to authenticate the identity of actual beneficiaries. As of now, the Gujarat Government provides various subsidies and financial assistance to the citizens under 119 schemes, which is paid via RTGS or through cheques. Now with the passing of the bill, the government can ensure more accurate, targeted and efficient delivery of such disbursements using Aadhaar number. The bill is in the line with the Central Aadhhar Act, passed by the central government in 2016. The Central Aadhhar Act empowers the state governments to introduce similar laws for targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits by linking Aadhaar number of each beneficiary.

    Pakistan Senate approved Hindu Marriage Bill

    The Senate of Pakistan in the third week of February 2017 gave its approval to the Hindu Marriage Bill. The bill seeks to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan. It will be the first personal law for Hindus living in Pakistan. The bill was approved by the lower house of the Pakistan Legislature, National Assembly, on 26 September 2015. Highlights of Hindu Marriage Bill : The bill seeks to provide a special form of marriage and divorce among Hindus in Pakistan. The provisions of the bill are not applicable if neither of the parties to the marriage has a spouse living at the time of marriage. However, this provision shall not apply if a wife cannot conceive a child and medically declared to be so. The bill allows judicial separation of couples on five grounds. Most important among them are -  i. The other party renounced the Hindu religion and adopted another one ii. If the partner has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of disease The bill sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for both boys and girls. It will be applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Act. Most importantly, the bill is considered as a progressive piece of legislation as it will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage. Previously, married Hindu women had to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion. The law paves the way for issuance of a document called as Shadi Parath. This document is similar to the ‘Nikahnama’ for Muslims. The bill defines Shadi Parath is a certificate or document of marriage issued by the Marriage Registrar. Every marriage solemnized under this Act shall be registered within fifteen days in accordance with the provision of this Act.  

    New Marriage Bill seeks to check extravagant spending in weddings

    The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of wasteful expenditure) Bill, 2016 seeks to put a cap on extravagant spending in Indian weddings by limiting the number of guests and number of the dishes in the menu. The bill aims to check ‘show of wealth’ and wants those who are spending above ₹5 Lakh in a wedding to contribute towards marriages of poor girls. It was introduced by Ranjeet Ranjan, a Congress MP, wife of MP Pappu Yadav. The Bill seeks that “if a family intends to spend more than ₹5 lakh on a wedding then, it will have to declare the amount proposed to be spent in advance to the appropriate government body and contribute 10% of it to a welfare fund established to assist poor families in the marriages of their daughters. The main objective behind its introduction is to prohibit extravagant and wasteful expenditure on marriages and to put into effect a simpler and much cheaper process. The Bill may be taken up as a private member’s Bill in the coming Lok Sabha session. If this proposed Bill comes into force, all marriages will have to be registered within 60 days of being solemnised. Explaining her main intention behind the bill’s introduction, Ranjeet Ranjan said great importance should be given to the solemnisation of marriage between two individuals but these days, unfortunately, the focus is more on celebrating marriages with pomp and show and spending lavishly. This, in turn, she added, is putting tremendous social pressure on poor families, forcing them also to spend more, which is not good for the society at large and hence, needs to be checked.

    Union Cabinet approves bill to amend Collection of Statistics Act, 2008

    The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved introduction of Bill in Parliament to extend the jurisdiction of the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 to Jammu & Kashmir.  The Amendment will be pertained to statistics under Union (List-I) and Concurrent lists (List- III) in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution and Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954. It will strengthen data collection mechanism in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.  It will extend the jurisdiction of the parent Act to J&K in respect of matters not reserved for the State as per the 1954 Order.  It also envisages appointment of nodal officer at Centre and in each State/UT to effectively coordinate data collection activities and provide consultation to government departments to avoid unnecessary duplication. The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 was enacted by the Parliament to facilitate the collection of statistics on economics, social, demographic, scientific and environmental aspects etc.  The Act extends to the whole of India, except J&K  The J&K state legislature also had enacted the Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010, which is replica of the central legislation extending to whole state.  However, both central and state legislations are not applicable to statistical subjects falling in the Union List, as applicable to the J&K under the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 1954.  This has created a legislative vacuum. Besides, concurrent jurisdiction to be exercised by Centre in J&K also has not been provided in the Central legislation. So the amendment is intended to address this vacuum.

    Lok Sabha passed Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017

    The Lok Sabha in February 2017 passed the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017. The bill replaces the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016. The ordinance was promulgated by the President Pranab Mukherjee on 30 December 2016. Features  : The bill specifies that the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will cease to be liabilities of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from 31 December 2016 onwards. And, these notes will no longer be guaranteed by the union government. These notes were demonetised on 8 November 2016 by the Central Bank through a notification issued under the RBI Act, 1934. The notification specifies that the banned notes must be deposited in banks or post offices by 30 December 2016. A person will be prohibited from holding, transferring or receiving the specified bank notes from 31 December 2016 onwards. The bill exempts persons belonging to following categories from this prohibition – i. A person who holds up to 10 old notes (irrespective of denomination) ii. A person who holds up to 25 notes for the purposes of study, research or numismatics (collection or study of coins or notes) iii. A person who holds notes on the direction of a court In addition, the RBI or any person authorised by it are also exempted from this prohibition. Any person holding the specified bank notes, except in the circumstances mentioned above, will be punishable with a fine that may extend to Rs 10,000 or 5 times the value of notes possessed, whichever is higher. If a person acting on behalf of a company commits an offence under the bill, the company would also be held liable for such an offence. Any fine for contravening provisions of the bill will be imposed by the Court of a Magistrate of the First Class or the Court of a Metropolitan Magistrate.

    Karnataka passed Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017

    Legislative Assembly of Karnataka on 13 February 2017 passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill seeks to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, in its application to Karnataka.   The bill presented in the assembly by Minister for Animal Husbandry and Sericulture, A Manju was passed to facilitate the conduct of traditional buffalo race “Kambala” and bullock cart races in South Kanara and Udupi districts. Kambala : Kambala is a traditional annual buffalo race that is held in the marshy fields of the coastal districts of Karnataka. It is traditionally held under the sponsorship of local landlords and households or Patel of the village. The season for the race generally starts in November and lasts until March. At present, some 45 races are held annually in the Coastal Karnataka, including smaller remote villages. The amendment to the Act of 1960 was needed to exempt the conduct of bullock cart racing from the ambit of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. Earlier, the High Court of the state had banned the sports following a petition of PETA.  This ban by the high court led to protests by Kambala committees and other Kannada organizations in the coastal districts of the state. The protests caught momentum after the success of stir in support of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. The protests in the Tamil Nadu forced the state government to bring a similar amendment to the central act.  

    UK’s House of Commons passes Brexit bill

    House of Commons, the lower house of British Parliament passed legislation on 8 February 2017, authorising Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to initiate Brexit talks with the European Union. The historic legislation witnessed 494 Members of the Parliament voting in favour of Brexit and just 122 against. Among the MPs who voted against the bill, 52 were labour MPs,  the leading opposition party, who went against their party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s orders of backing the bill. Few of the pro- European legislators even whistled European Union’s anthem, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ while the votes were being tallied. Highlights : Though the members of the lower house had already shown overwhelming support to the bill in its initial reading, the final votes were cast following a seven-hour debate on amendments.The bill was passed with no changes.    It will now be sent to the second chamber of UK Parliament, House of Lords, also known as the upper house of the British Parliament.The House of Lords will be posed with two options: Approve the bill after several readings and debates and pass it on for royal assent to be turned into a law.  Make amendments and send the bill back to the House of Commons for further debate and votes. At most, the upper house can force the lower house to reconsider their decision but it cannot prevent the bill from being passed. So, the bill is most likely to become a law within the coming few weeks, right as per the deadline set by Theresa May. The British Prime Minister has vowed to set off Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal method to start Britain’s exit from the EU, by the end of March 2017. According to David Davis, the Secretary of State for exiting the EU, the final legislation was preceded by a healthy and serious debate with contributions from MPs representing all parts of the UK. He further added that the Brexit decision was taken by the people of Britain and so, it is vital for everyone to now unite to make the task successful.

    Lok Sabha passes Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017

    The Lok Sabha has passed the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to enable employers to pay wages to workers through cheque or directly crediting to their accounts. The bill will replace the Ordinance promulgated by the President in December 2016 to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936. Method of payment of wages: Earlier, under the parent Act employer can pay his employee’s wages either by cheque or by crediting it into his bank account after obtaining his written authorisation. Permit the employer to pay an employee’s wages: (i) by cheque; or (ii) by crediting them into his bank account or (iii) in coin or currency notes. It removes the requirement of obtaining prior written authorization for payment of wages by cheque or through a bank account. It empowers Union or state government to specify certain industrial or other establishments where the employer should pay his employees only by: (i) cheque; or (ii) crediting the wages in his bank account. The Union Government had decided to take the ordinance route amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 because after demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes in November 2016 had led to a cash crunch, and employers were finding it tough to pay workers in cash.

    Right to Information Act comes into force in Sri Lanka

    Right to Information (RTI) Act has come into effect in Sri Lanka from February 3, 2017. RTI was one of the major announcements made by the present Sri Lankan government ahead of the 2015 election. RTI Commission which comprises of 5 persons namely Mahinda Gammanpila, KishaliPinto-Jayawardena, S. G Punchihewa, Judge A. W. A. Salam and Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran , is vested with a variety of powers and is responsible for ensuring people can utilize the Right to Information effectively. The public authorities under which the RTI request falls are liable to respond to these requests within the specified timelines, subject to a maximum of 28 days. Sankhitha Gunaratne, RTI Manager of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) informed that public can now start filing RTI request. This RTI law overrides all other written laws in this respect and all information can be revealed if the greater public interest is served by disclosing the information.  

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Presents Demonetisation Bill in Lok Sabha

    The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 3, 2017 by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.The Bill provides for holding, transfer and receiving of old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, which were demonetized after November 8, 2016, as a criminal offence and punishable with a minimum fine of Rs 10,000. It seeks to replace the ordinance on demonetization announced by the government in December 2016. The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill will end the liability of RBI and the government on the demonetized currency notes. The bill mentions that the demonetisation decision of the union government was based on the recommendations of the RBI’s central board as an effective measure to eliminate unaccounted money and fake currency notes from the financial system.  

    Cabinet approves Introduction of The Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017

    The Union Cabinet has given its approval for introduction of The Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in Parliament. The amendment Bill has provision for the inclusion of Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing (IIITDM), Kurnool along with the other IITs in the Principal Act. With this, IIITDM Kurnool will become fifth Member as a Centrally Funded IIIT. IITDM Kurnool inclusions will make it an institute of National Importance with the power to award degrees to students. Its academic session had commenced in two branches of study in 2015-16. The expenditure for the operationalization of IITDM Kurnool is incurred from the Plan funds of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Act, 2014 confers the status of Institutions of National Importance on the IIITs. It deals with matters connected with administering these IIITs. The Andhra Pradesh as embodied in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 had embodied creation of a new NIT at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, Government had approved its creation. Due to addition of a new IIIT, amendment has to be made in the IIIT Act, 2014.

    India Post Payments Bank starts pilot services

    India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) kicked off its operations by rolling out pilot services in Raipur and Ranchi. The bank will offer an interest rate of 4.5% on deposits up to ₹25,000; 5% on deposits of ₹25,000-50,000 and 5.5% on ₹50,000-1,00,000.The paid up equity of the new bank is ₹800 crore, of which the government has already infused ₹275 crore. The idea is to have a branch in every district and make 3 lakh postmen come alive in payment bank function.Also 1,000 ATMs of India Post will be transferred to IPPB. Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha stated that IPPB plans to have 650 branches across the country by September 2017.

    Union Cabinet approved Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2017

    The Union Cabinet gave its approval to the Indian Institute of Management(IIM) Bill, 2017. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 January 2017 in New Delhi. Features of Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2017 : The IIM Bill, 2017 declares Indian Institutes of Management as Institutions of National Importance. This status will enable them to grant degrees to their students. The bill provides for complete autonomy to the institutions without compromising their accountability to the government. Management of these institutions would be Board-driven, with the Chairperson and Director of an institution will be selected by the Board of IIM. A greater participation of experts and alumni in the Board is amongst other important features of the bill. Provision has also been made for inclusion of women and members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Board. The bill also provides for periodic review of the performance of institutions by independent agencies. The findings of these agencies will be placed in the public domain. The annual report of the institutions will be placed in the Parliament. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) will be auditing their accounts. The bill also provides for the Coordination Forum of IIMs. It will have the status of an advisory body.  Indian Institutes of Management are the country's premier institutions. : They impart best quality education in management on globally benchmarked processes of education and training. IIMs are recognized as world-class management institutions and centers of excellence. All IIMs are separate autonomous bodies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Being societies, IIMs are not authorized to award degrees. Hence, they have been awarding Post Graduate Diploma and Fellow Programme in Management. While these awards are treated as equivalent to MBAs and Ph.D. respectively, the equivalence is not universally acceptable, especially for the Fellow Programme.The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill, 2017 will address this issue.  

    N K Singh panel submits report on changes in FRBM Act

    The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Committee has submitted its 4 volume report on changes in FRBM Act, 2013 to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.  The 5 member committee was headed by N.K. Singh, former Revenue and Expenditure Secretary and former MP.  Its member included RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose, and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director Rathin Roy. The committee was constituted in May 2016 following Finance Minister Budget 2016-17 announcement.  It was assigned task to review the working of the FRBM Act over last 12 years to suggest the way forward. It was also tasked to examine the need and feasibility of having a ‘fiscal deficit range’ as the target in place of the existing fixed numbers (percentage of GDP) as fiscal deficit target.  The committee has kept in view the broad objective of fiscal consolidation and prudence and has suggested changes required in the context of the uncertainty and volatility in the global economy. The first volume of the report addresses the issue of the fiscal roadmap, fiscal policy, international experience and recommendations therein.  The second volume refers to international experience especially from a lot of international organisations particularly OECD, the World Bank, ILO. The third volume deals with Centre-State issues. The fourth volume deals with views of domain experts both from national and international appropriate for fiscal policy  

    Tamil Nadu Assembly passes bill replacing ordinance to revive Jallikattu

    The Tamil Nadu Assembly on 23 January 2017 passed a Bill amending the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 unanimously. The Bill is aimed at safeguarding Jallikattu sport in the state saying it helps preserve native breeds of bulls and serves to uphold tradition and culture. The Bill labels Jallikattu as an event involving bulls conducted with a view to following tradition and culture from January to May. It also includes similar events like 'manjuviratu', 'vadamadu' and 'erudhuvidum' festivals. State Chief Minister O Panneerselvam piloted the Bill, which was supported by all the three opposition parties, the DMK, the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The first legal jallikattu under this exemption is scheduled on 1 February 2017 in Alanganallur, Madurai district. The Animal Welfare Board of India had filed a case in the Supreme Court for a complete ban on Jallikattu. The cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety were the reasons behind asking the ban. The SC, on 27 November 2010, permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year. The apex court also directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in the game are registered to the Animal Welfare Board. In 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification that banned the use of bulls as performing animals. Therefore, the event was banned. However, Jallikattu continued to be held under Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009. On 7 May 2014, the top court struck down the state law and completely banned Jallikattu. The court also noted that any disdain shall result in penance under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The Union Government on 8 January 2016 passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, the SC on 14 January 2016 upheld its ban on the event, which eventually led to protests all over Tamil Nadu. On 12 January 2017, the Supreme Court ordered a stay and issued notices to the Union Government and the Government of Tamil Nadu, and later refused to lift the stay.  On 21 January 2017, the Governor of Tamil Nadu issued a new ordinance that authorized the continuation of Jallikattu.  

    Union Government cleared Tamil Nadu’s proposal to amend Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

    Union Government gave its approval for a Tamil Nadu’s draft proposal, which seeks to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The proposal is primarily aimed at removing legal hurdles to jallikattu, a bull taming sport practiced in Tamil Nadu.The draft proposal was accepted by the Union Government in the wake of ongoing protests in various parts of Tamil Nadu over ban on jallikattu. The proposal seeks to de-notify bulls from the prohibited category mentioned in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam discussed about the draft proposal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 19 December 2017. Since the subject falls in the concurrent list of the Constitution, it has become mandatory for Tamil Nadu to get the Centre’s nod before proceeding with amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The proposal was forwarded by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for approval. After receiving the necessary clearances from both the ministries, the MHA headed by Rajnath Singh gave formal approval to Tamil Nadu’s proposal. Now, the draft proposal will be notified by Tamil Nadu government in the form of an ordinance. For this, the ordinance must be approved by the Tamil Nadu cabinet and promulgated by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The ordinance doesn’t require the President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent as the prior approval of the Union Government has been taken by Tamil Nadu Government.This legal process is expected to be completed by 22 January 2017. At present, Ch Vidyasagar Rao is the governor of Maharashtra. He was sworn in as acting governor of Tamil Nadu in September 2016 after the end of tenure of K Rosaiah on 31 August 2016.  

    Union Government amends Income-tax Rules, 1962 to link PAN in all existing bank accounts

    The Union Finance Ministry  amended the Income-tax Rules, 1962 to allow banks to obtain and link PAN or Form No 60 (where PAN is not available) in all existing bank accounts (other than BSBDA) by 28 February 2017. The amended rules are referred as Income-tax (33rd Amendment) Rules, 2016. Earlier in December 2016, RBI mandated that no withdrawal will be allowed from the accounts having significant deposits, if PAN or Form No 60 is not provided in respect of such accounts.  Therefore, people, who have bank account but have not submitted PAN or Form No 60 yet, will now be required to submit the PAN or Form No 60 to the bank. Moreover, the banks and post offices were mandated to submit details of cash deposits from 1 April 2016 to 8 November 2016 in accounts where the cash deposits during the period 9 November 2016 to 30 December 2016 exceeds the specified limits. This means that the banks will be required to provide details of cash deposits of Rs 2.5 lakh or more in individual accounts. In case of current accounts, banks and post offices will have to furnish details of accounts where deposits are 12.5 lakh and above. It has also been provided that people, who are required to obtain PAN or Form No 60, should record the PAN in all the documents and reports submitted to the Income-tax Department. The Union Government on 8 November 2016 banned the legal tender of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes in the country. Following the note ban, around 60 lakh individuals and firms made large deposits totalling to around Rs 7 lakh crore in old notes.

    CBDT extends deadline of Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme

    The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has extended the last date for availing the Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme to January 31, 2017 from the earlier deadline of December 31, 2016. This extension aims to give companies one more month to accept its offer to settle retro tax disputes with Government. It comes against the backdrop of tepid response from companies to the scheme. Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme :  The scheme was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the 2016-17 Budget and came into force on June 1, 2016. It provides for waiving interest and penalties if the principal amount involved in retrospective tax cases is paid. It aims at releasing about Rs. 5.16 lakh crore, which is locked in about 2.6 lakh pending direct tax cases.  Under it, a disputed tax amount of up to Rs 10 lakh and the penalty will be forgone. However, in cases where the disputed tax amount is above Rs 10 lakh, a penalty of 25% will be levied. It waives of the interest and penalty for retrospective tax cases only if the company in question withdraws all appeals against the government at all judicial forums.  Through the scheme, the government hopes to settle major retrospective tax cases facing Cairn Energy of UK and Vodafone Group. It also expects a third of the other tax disputes to be settled.  

    President gives assent to Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016

    President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, to enable industries to pay wages by cheque or credit into the bank accounts of workers. The ordinance amends the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to encourage cashless transactions. With this assent the ordinance becomes law as per article 123 of the Constitution. Allows industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000 per month, without taking their explicit consent as required under present Act. Empowers the Union and State governments to specify industries or establishments where wage payments can be made mandatory through banks. However, it is not mandatory for employers to make wage payments through the banking system and they can still pay in cash. The Union Government had decided to take the ordinance route because after demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes in November 2016 had led to a cash crunch, and employers were finding it tough to pay workers in cash. The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced in Parliament was also not able get passed during winter session of the Parliament.

    Union Cabinet approves ordinance to amend Payment of Wages Act, 1936

    The Union Cabinet has approved the ordinance amending Payment of Wages Act, 1936 for allowing certain business and industrial establishments to pay salaries and wages through cheques or through the electronic mode. With the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, employers will also have the option to pay wages in cash.This ordinance is valid for the period of six months only and the government is required to get the bill passed in Parliament within this period only. The Bill was introduced by the Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya amidst the ruckus over the demonetisation issue that has engulfed the whole country with the cash crunch.  Provisions of the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 : It seeks to amend Section 6 of Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to enable employers to pay wages to employees through cheques or by crediting the salaries to their bank accounts electronically. It will allow the State Governments to specify industrial or other establishments that adopt cashless way for salary payments. •The new procedure will serve the objective of digital and cashless economy.  

    Union Government notified Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016

    The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 14 December 2016 notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016. These rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and seek to address the issues related to the conservation and development of wetlands in a comprehensive manner. Highlights of Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 : The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of ‘wise use’ for maintaining their ecological integrity. Wise use of wetlands means preserving the ecological character of wetlands through the implementation of ecosystem approaches. However, the strategies adopted to preserve wetlands should be within the context of sustainable development.The rules prohibit any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland. Activities having or likely to have an adverse impact on the ecological character of the wetland are also prohibited. Wetland Authority will be set up by the State Governments or UTs to deal with wetland conservation, regulation and management.In a state, the authority will be headed by the respective Chief Minister. For the purpose of managing wetlands having multiple issues, the concerned State Government or UT Administration may, if required, constitute a specific Wetland Authority.  

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