THE BUDGET SESSION of Parliament convened for 32 days between February 21 and May 8. It saw the passage of two major Bills:
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act came into force in February. The Bill was drafted in response to widespread street protests after the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in December. The amendments made to the Indian Penal Code,on the recommendation of the Justice J S Verma Committee,include introduction of offences such as voyeurism,stalking,human trafficking,acid attack and sexual harassment. The definition of rape was widened to include not just penal-vaginal intercourse but also to penalise penetration of any orifice of a woman with any part of the mans body or with any object. If a public servant is now accused of rape,no government sanction is required for prosecution.
The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (came into force on December 9). The government gave statutory force to the 1997 Vishakha guidelines requiring all organisations to set up an internal complaints committee to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace.
THE MONSOON SESSIONof the House lasted from August 5 to September 7.
The proposal to amend the Representation of the People Act to allow convicted legislators to retain their membership pending an appeal was not pursued as it was seen as going against the grain of public sentiment for cleaning politics.
National Food Security Bill,2013,became an Act in September. The primary objective is to guarantee cheap food grain to nearly 70 per cent of Indias 1.2 billion people.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act,2013,commonly referred to as the Land Acquisition Act,came into force on January 1,2014. The rules governing the Act will be finalised by February 15. The rules will lay down the framework for social impact assessments and obtaining the consent of affected families. It replaces the more-than-a-century-old Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The most important feature of the law is that it requires developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land needs to acquired for private projects and 70 per cent of the land owners in the case of public-private partnership.
Companies Act,2013 seeks to enhance transparency,make corporate social responsibility mandatory and protects the interest of employees and small investors. From April onwards,large companies will need to contribute at least 2 per cent of their average net profits of the past three years as CSR spend.
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill,2013,got presidential assent in September. It paves the way for individuals to widen their post-retirement cover and allows foreign investors to acquire up to 26 per cent stake in the sector.
The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill,2013,got presidential assent in October. It negates a Supreme Court order banning politicians in jail and under police custody from contesting polls.
Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act,2013,came into force on December 6 across India except Jammu and Kashmir. The law prohibits the employment of manual scavengers,manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment and the construction of insanitary latrines.
On September 27,the Supreme Court said voters have the right to disapprove all candidates on the ballot and ordered the Election Commission to introduce the None of the Above (NOTA) option.
The WINTER SESSION
Parliament had initially planned 12 sittings,from December 5 to 18,but adjourned sine die two days ahead of schedule.
n Of 29 Bills listed for consideration,only the Lokpal Bill could be passed. It provides for the creation of an anti-graft watchdog which will have under its purview even the Prime Minister with certain safeguards. The Bill seeks to establish a Lokpal at the central level and asks states to establish Lokayuktas within a years time from the date of notification of the law. The President gave his assent on January 1,2014.
Maharashtra Anti-Superstition Bill: In the light of the murder of Pune-based rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar,who originally drafted the Bill,the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly passed the Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman,Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Ordinance. An ordinance enforcing its provisions was passed by the state a day after Dabholkar was murdered on August 21. The Bill seeks to criminalise practices related to black magic,human sacrifices,use of magic remedies to cure ailments and other such acts. It doesnt outlaw superstition.
Section 377: In December,the Supreme Court upheld Section 377 criminalising private consensual sex between adults of the same sex,ruling that it had been struck down improperly by the High Court in 2009. The Supreme Court held that only Parliament had the power to change that law.
Telangana: The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill,2013,is a draft Bill proclaiming the bifurcation of the Andhra Pradesh state into two states,Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh. President Pranab Mukherjee has referred the Bill to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly,which has been mandated to return it by January 23.