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Delhi Assembly passes Bill to penalize government officials delaying services

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New Delhi: The Delhi Assembly passed the Delhi Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services Amendment Bill, ensuring that government officers who are late in providing services will face a salary deduction.

The passing of this Bill has been described as a “huge victory” against corruption by CM Arvind Kejriwal, who regretted not being present at the Assembly due to poor health.

Every government department will be asked to put out a “comprehensive citizens charter” within 30 days of them being notified. The HODs will be given charge of this.

E-governance platforms will be pushed by the Bill in delivering citizen services because of their greater transparency. Local bodies and government departments are being encouraged to take up this method.

A total of 371 services, covering almost all departments are currently in play under the domain of the Sheila Dixit enacted legislation.

“Congrats Delhi. Del Assembly passes the Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill, 2015 unanimously. A huge victory in our fight against corruption. It is beginning of end of cutting edge corruption that aam admi faces daily in his life,” Kejriwal said in his tweets.

It was the common citizen who bore the “entire onus” of getting compensation for delayed services, according to the Act. The government stated that the recent amendments were carried out to fix this issue.

According to the Bill, a ‘Competent Officer’ –a Deputy Secretary or a higher level official– will be entrusted with the job of paying compensation to the concerned citizen, while also recovering the compensation from the officer responsible.

“It shall be the duty of the concerned competent officer to ensure that the compensation is paid to the applicant within days as prescribed under the rules on which the service is provided failing which the citizen shall be paid double the said amount and it shall be deducted from the salary of the competent authority,” said the official statement, as  quoted by agencies.

Speaking in the Assembly, Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, said at the Assembly that due to this legislation being passed, common citizens now wouldn’t have to keep making rounds of officials and MLAs to get their work done.

Vijender Gupta, Opposition leader, who refrained from voting, asked Sisodia how much fine needed to be recovered.

The Amendment also mentions encouraging officials to provide timely service delivery by offering rewards through an incentive fund for service performance.

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Lok Sabha passes Bill that criminalises triple talaq

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by a voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party member N.K. Premachandran that the legislation is circulated for public opinion. 

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Triple talaq
Activists of various social organisations hold placards during a protest against "Triple Talaq" in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (VOA)

New Delhi, Dec 28: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill that criminalises instant divorce with three years of imprisonment for Muslim husbands after the government rejected an overwhelming demand from the Opposition to refer the legislation to a Parliamentary standing committee for detailed consideration.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by a voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party member N.K. Premachandran that the legislation is circulated for public opinion.

Various amendments moved by opposition members, including Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) and Premachandran, were negatived in divisions.

Lok Sabha cleared the Triple Talaq bill
Lok Sabha cleared the Triple Talaq bill

The government’s determination to get the Bill passed could be gauged from the fact that it was introduced in the morning and taken up for consideration in the afternoon by suspending relevant rules and then passed in the evening by sitting late beyond the scheduled close of the House.

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the bill and later piloted it in the Lok Sabha, said history was being created today.

He said the issue was not of religion or faith but of “gender justice and gender equality” and appealed to all the parties to rise above political considerations and politics of vote bank. “Women are seeing that justice will be done to them. Let us speak in one voice that we are for gender justice and gender equity and pass the Bill unanimously,” Prasad said, winding up the discussion.

He said instances of instant triple talaq continue despite the Supreme Court ruling it as unconstitutional in August this year. The bill seeks to declare pronouncement of talaq-e-biddat (three pronouncements of talaq at one go) by Muslim husbands void and illegal in view of the Supreme Court verdict.

Prasad said while Justice Rohington Nariman and U.U. Lalit held in their judgment in August that instant divorce was unconstitutional and the government should look at bringing a law, Justice Kurian Joseph had observed that what is a sin in Islamic laws cannot be legal.

During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims
During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims

The Minister saw no justification in the demand for referring the Bill to a standing committee saying the affected Muslim women were crying for justice and were fully backing it. He said there was a contradiction in members wanting it to be referred to a standing committee and some arguing why it was not brought earlier.

The Bill makes the act of pronouncing talaq-e-biddat punishable offence. There is provision for subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily supporting needs of the wife as also of the dependent children. The wife would also be entitled to the custody of minor children.

Intervening in the debate, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar said time was now ripe for the passage of the legislation in the interest of Muslim women. He recalled an instance of a British journalist interviewing the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after the passage of the Hindu code Bill when she asked when would the government introduce reforms in Muslim laws.

Nehru was not opposed to reforms of Muslim personal laws but merely said the time was not opportune then, Akbar said. “That time has come now.”

Though Opposition members, including from the Congress, supported the legislation, they wanted it to be referred to a parliamentary committee so that several lacunae can be removed and the provisions strengthened in favour of Muslim women. The law must ensure that subsistence allowance and maintenance to the women and the children were not stopped, they felt.

Some felt that the BJP government was in a haste to pass the Bill, not because of its concern for Muslim women but because it sees this as a first step towards bringing in a uniform civil code. They wanted the measure to be given up immediately.

During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims and said there is a need for codification of Muslim personal laws in the country.

“They (Congress) always did appeasement politics for which the country has paid for 30 years and today we have this chance. If we lose this chance today we will not have another chance.,” she said.

“Codification of Islamic law is needed in this country. No one knows what is Sharia, Talaq-e-Biddat… No one knows the difference,” she added.