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The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2023

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability

 

Source: TH

Context: The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2023 is set to be taken up during the ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament.

 

Objective of the Bill:

  • To redefine the regulatory landscape of the country with decriminalisation of minor offences under 42 Acts.
  • To reduce compliance burden and promote ease of living and doing business in the country.

  

More about the Bill:

  • The Bill was tabled in Parliament by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry (December 2022) and then referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
  • As per reports, most recommendations of the JPC have been approved by the Union Cabinet, clearing the way for its passing.

 

Salient provisions of the Bill:

  • Decriminalising: 180 offences across 42 laws governing environment, agriculture, media, industry and trade, etc.
  • Completely remove/ replace imprisonment clauses: With monetary fines.
  • Compounding of offences in some provisions.
  • Removes all offences and penalties under the Indian Post Office Act, 1898.
  • Changes in grievance redressal mechanisms: Appointment of one or more Adjudicating Officers for determining penalties.
  • A periodic revision of fines and penalties: An increase of 10% of the minimum amount every 3 years for various offences in the specified Acts.

 

Some key laws covered in the Bill:

  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • The Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking) Act, 1937
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000
  • The Copyright Act, 1957
  • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
  • The Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, etc

 

Need for the Bill:

  • A large number of compliances govern doing business in India:
    • Currently, there are 1,536 laws which translate into around 70,000 compliances that govern doing business in India.
    • Among these, 26,134 have imprisonment clauses as a penalty for non-compliance.
  • Lengthy processing times for the needed approvals: Escalating costs and dampening the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Implications:
    • Excessive compliances have proved burdensome for business enterprises, especially MSMEs.
    • Creating barriers to the smooth flow of ideas and the creation of jobs, wealth and GDP.

 

Significance of the Bill:

  • Reducing the compliance burden gives impetus to the business ecosystem and improves the well-being of the public.
  • Smoother processes will attract more investment.
  • It will reduce judicial burden, as settlement by compounding method, adjudication and administrative mechanism will save time, energy and resources.
  • In short, the Bill seeks to bolster ‘trust-based governance’ – promoting ease of doing business and ease of living.

 

Concerns:

  • Quasi-decriminalisation: The monetary fines or penalties are not a good enough attempt at decriminalisation.
  • Remove the deterrence effect of the environmental legislation: The blanket removal of imprisonment provision might remove deterrence, especially for large corporations profiteering from the offence.
  • Adjudicating Officers may lack the technical competence: Necessary to decide all penalties under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
  • Many offences (like theft or misappropriation of postal articles) proposed to be removed have nothing to do with its objective of decriminalisation to promote ease of doing business.

 

Conclusion:

  • The cornerstone of democratic governance lies in the government trusting its own people and institutions and a web of outdated rules and regulations causes trust deficit.
  • After resolving the above issues, the Jan Vishwas Bill will help to clear the burdensome collection of old and outdated legislation.

 

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