JAN VISHWAS BILL 2023 (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 - Govt. Policies & Intervention)

News-CRUX-10     28th July 2023        
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Context: The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2023 was passed in Lok Sabha.

  • The Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha on 22nd December 2022. Subsequently, it was referred to the Joint Committee of the Parliament.

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022 amends 42 laws, across multiple sectors, including agriculture, environment, and media and publication.  Acts being amended include the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • The Bill converts several fines to penalties, meaning that court prosecution is not necessary to administer punishments.  It also removes imprisonment as a punishment for many offences.  All offences under the Post Office Act, 1898 are being removed.
  • Fines and penalties for certain offences in specified Acts are being increased.  These fines and penalties will be increased by 10% of the minimum amount every three years.
  • The Bill amends some Acts to provide for the appointment of Adjudicating Officers to decide penalties.  It also specifies the appellate mechanism.

Key Issues

  • The Bill omits all offences under the Indian Post Office Act, 1898. This raises two questions.  
    • First, since several offences under this Act can only be committed by post office officials, it is not clear how deleting those offences is relevant to the stated objective of improving ease of living and doing business.  
    • Second, the omitted offences include the unlawful opening of postal articles.  Removing punishments for this offence may lead to unjustified invasions of privacy.
  • The Adjudicating Officers appointed to award penalties for environmental offences are senior officials of the Executive branch.  They may lack the required technical and judicial competence to decide on such penalties.
  • The Bill creates an Environmental Protection Fund for education, awareness, and research for environment protection.  The reasons for creating this fund are unclear given the overlap between its purpose and that of existing funds of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards.
  • The Bill decriminalises offences under the High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, 1978.  This Act was used to remove high-value banknotes as legal tender on January 16, 1978.  
  • This deadline also applied to regulatory compliances under that Act.  Therefore, amending punishments under this Act after 45 years may not be relevant.
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