Archive for February, 2011

Legislative Commitments in President’s Speech

February 26th, 2011 No comments

The Budget Session of Parliament began with President Pratibha Patil’s address to a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.  The session will continue till April 21, 2011 with a recess from March 17 to April 3, 2011.  The Railways Budget was presented and the Economic Survey was released on February 25.  The Union Budget will be presented on February 28, 2011.

The agenda for government Bills includes 31 pending Bills for consideration and passing.  Three new Bills are listed for introduction, consideration and passing.  The government plans to introduce 32 new Bills.

The President made certain commitments on legislation for the Budget Session.  We list the commitments made in the speech and the status of implementation.

Issue President’s Speech Current Status
Food Security The law will entitle statutorily every family, below poverty line, to food grains at highly subsidised prices.  Important inputs in this regard have been received from the National Advisory Council.  The states are being consulted as the success of the programme hinges critically on their commitment to reforms in the public distribution system. In 2010, an Expert Committee was set up by the Prime Minister under the chairmanship of Dr C. Rangarajan to examine the implications of the proposal of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and make recommendations.  The NAC had proposed that legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to be extended to at least 75% of the population.  The Rangarajan Committee Report, published in Jan 2011, raised some objections based on availability of foodgrains and subsidy implications.
Corruption A Group of Ministers formed to consider all measures, including legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve tranparency.  The government plans to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption. The UPA government has formed a Group of Ministers under the chairmanship of Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister.  The GoM would recommend measures to end discretionary powers of ministers and summary dismissal of corrupt government officials.
  A Bill to give protection to whistleblowers have been introduced. The Public Interest Disclosure Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Aug 26, 2010.  The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice  (PRS analysis on the Bill).
Judicial Reforms High priority to be given to improving the delivery of justice  and reducing delays in the disposal of cases.  The details of the National Mission for Delivery of Justice to be finalised soon.  The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill has already been introduced in Parliament to enhance the accountability of the judiciary. The government plans to set up the National Mission for Delivery of Justice.  A blueprint of the mission is available on the Law Ministry’s website.  The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Dec 1, 2010.  The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.
Black Money The government has commissioned a multi-disciplinary study to understand the ramifications for national security and recommend a suitable framework to tackle the problem of black money.  India gained membership to the Financial Action Task Force in recognition of its anti-money laundering and anti-tax evasion measures. The Finance Minister stated that he could not reveal names of Indians who have money stashed abroad because of an absence of legal framework. Expert group set up to look into the issue.  The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was amended in 2009 (PRS analysis on the Bill).
Mines The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act is proposed to be replaced by a new legislation, which will ensure that local communities benefit adequately from the development process. A draft Bill was formulated by a Group of Ministers in 2010.  It is now under legal vetting before it is taken to the Cabinet for its approval (Relevant documents available here).
Bills related to Women and Children Government introduced a constitutional amendment bill to provide reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures.  The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha but is pending in the Lok Sabha.  The President hopes that it will be considered in the Lok Sabha at the earliest. The Bill was introduced on May 6, 2008 and referred to the Standing Committee which submitted its report on Dec 17, 2009.  The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010.  However, it is pending in the Lok Sabha (PRS analysis on the Bill).  It is listed for consideration and passing in the Budget Session.
Introduced the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill.  Proposal to introduce a bill regarding protection of children from sexual offences. The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment Bill was introduced on Dec 7, 2010.  The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee, which is scheduled to submit its report by June 30, 2011.  The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011 is listed for introduction in the Budget Session Alert.
Biotechnology A Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill is proposed to be introduced this session The Biotechnology Authority of India Bill, 2011 is listed for introduction in the Budget Session Alert.

No more wireless internet at cafes and airports

February 25th, 2011 8 comments

If the government has its way, accessing the internet using wifi hotspots at airports and cafes just might become a thing of the past.  It might happen because of the way “cyber cafes” are defined in the Information Technology Act.  The IT Act defines a cyber café as any facility which as part of its business offers internet access to people. The

The government has sought feedback on a draft regulation to govern the working of cyber cafes.   The draft regulation can be found here.  The draft regulations requires every cyber cafe to have a license and give internet access to people after they prove their identity to the satisfaction of the cyber café.  The cyber cafés are required to maintain the logs of users and of websites accessed by users. Cyber cafes are also required to ensure that their service is not utilised by people for any illegal activity or for viewing pornography.  There are requirements on the physical layout of the cyber cafe — for example, they need to prominently display a board stating that users may not view pornography.

These regulations by their very nature are designed for a traditional cyber café where people use computer terminals provided by the cyber café owner and access the internet.  But because of the waycyber café is defined in the Act, most public wifi hotspots would be called a cyber café and thereby be regulated by the cyber café guidelines.  So the local café which provides wireless access to its patrons would have to get a licence and follow other cyber café guidelines.  Since the draft guidelines place enough legal responsibility on a cyber café that many café and other public places which offer wireless internet would rethink their strategy of providing this service.

You can send in your feedback to the draft guidelines by the 28th of February to