Case not closed - Appointment of judges
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Parliament is considering a proposal to change the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts. A Constitutional Amendment Bill has been introduced in Rajya Sabha that enables the formation of a Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC), and states that the composition and functions of the JAC will be detailed in a law enacted by Parliament. The appointments will be made according to the recommendations of the JAC. This body replaces the current process of “consultation” with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other senior judges. An ordinary Bill has also been introduced in Rajya Sabha which seeks to establish the JAC. The composition of the JAC will be the CJI, the next two judges of the Supreme Court in terms of seniority, the law minister and two eminent persons. These two eminent persons will be selected by a collegium consisting of the CJI, the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. In case of High Court Judges, the JAC will consult with the chief minister, the governor of the state and the Chief Justice of the High Court. The new system is widening the selection committee. It includes representatives of the executive and senior judiciary, as well as two persons who are jointly selected by the executive (PM), judiciary (CJI), and the legislature (leader of opposition). However, it may be diluting some of the safeguards in the Constitution. At a later date, the composition of the JAC can be amended by ordinary majority in Parliament. [For example, they can drop the judicial members.] This is a significantly lower bar than the current system which requires a change to the Constitution, i.e., have the support of two thirds of members of each House of Parliament, and half the state assemblies.
Budget Session 2017 commenced with the President, Pranab Mukherjee, addressing a joint sitting of Parliament on January 31, 2017. This address by the President highlights the legislative and policy activities and achievements of the government in the previous year. In addition, it gives a broad indication of the government’s agenda for the year ahead. The address is followed by a motion of thanks that is moved in each House by ruling party MPs. This is followed by a discussion on the address and concludes with the Prime Minister replying to the points raised during the discussion.
In the lower house, the motion of thanks has begun today. It began in the upper house on February 2, 2017. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have allocated two and three days for the discussion, respectively. In this context, we present an analysis of the salient points of the agenda proposed in the President’s address from 2014 to 2017 and the current status of its implementation.
|Policy priority stated in the President’s address (2014 to 2017)||Current Status|
|Poverty eradication and financial inclusion|
|Agriculture and water security|
|Governance and legal reforms|
|Rural and Urban Development|
|Women and child development|
[Sources: President’s Address to the Parliament from 2014 to 2017; PRS.]
[i] “Press note on First Revised Estimates of National Income, 2015-16”, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, January 31, 2017, http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_release/nad_PR_31jan17.pdf.
[ii] Economic Survey, 2016-17, http://finmin.nic.in/indiabudget2017-2018/e_survey.asp.
[iii] “Press Release Consumer Price Index Numbers on Base 2012=100 for Rural, Urban and Combined for the Month of December 2016”, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, January 12, 2017,http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_release/CPI_PR12jan17th.pdf
[iv] “Developments in India’s Balance of Payments during the second quarter of 2016-17”, Reserve Bank of India, December 13, 2016, https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=38884.
[v] “Developments in India’s Balance of Payments during the second quarter of 2016-17”, Reserve Bank of India, December 13, 2016, https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=38884.
[vii] “Cabinet approves setting up of India Post Payments Bank”, Cabinet, June 1, 2016.
[viii] “Achievements of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare”, Ministry of Agriculture, January 2, 2016.
[ix] “Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2015”, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, http://eands.dacnet.nic.in/PDF/Agricultural_Statistics_At_Glance-2015.pdf.
[x] “Task Force on Interlinking Rivers Constituted”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Water Resources, April 14, 2015.
[xi] Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers, National Water Development Agency,http://www.nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/ilr/notification.pdf.
[xii] Report No. 4, Standing Committee on Energy, ‘The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014’, Lok Sabha, May 2015, Standing Committee on Energy, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Electricity/SC%20report-Electricity.pdf.
[xiii] “Physical Progress (Achievements)”, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, March 30, 2015,http://mnre.gov.in/mission-and-vision-2/achievements/.
[xiv] Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Act, 2016, http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/Act22of2016AppropriationActsrepeal.pdf.
[xv] Repealing and Amending Act, 2016, http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/Act23of2016RepealingandAmending.pdf.
[xvi] 12(1)/2014/D (Pen/PoI)- Part II, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, Department of Ex- Servicemen Welfare, November 7, 2015, http://www.desw.gov.in/sites/upload_files/desw/files/pdf/OR OP-DESW-MOD.pdf.
[xvii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question 1696, Ministry of Defence, November 25, 2016,http://220.127.116.11/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU1696.pdf.
[xviii] “Year End Review 2016”, Ministry of Defence, December 31, 2016,http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=156049.
[xix] The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016,http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Compensatory%20Afforestation/CAMPA%20act,%202016.pdf.
[xx] Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question No 82, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, April 25, 2016.
[xxi] Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question No 914, Department of Rural Development, May 2, 2016 ,http://18.104.22.168/question/annex/239/Au914.pdf.
[xxii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No 4443, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, December 14, 2016, http://22.214.171.124/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU4443.pdf.
[xxiii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No 199, Ministry of Urban Development, November 16, 2016,http://126.96.36.199/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU199.pdf.
[xxiv] “Rolling out of National Health Assurance Mission”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, July 15, 2014.
[xxvi] Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojana guidelines,http://janaushadhi.gov.in/data/Individuals_December_2016.pdf.
[xxvii] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015,http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Juvenile%20Justice/Juvenile%20Justice%20Act,%202015.pdf.
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha on November 21, 2016 and is listed for passage this week. The Bill regulates altruistic surrogacy and prohibits commercial surrogacy. We present a brief overview of the Bill and some issues that may need to be considered:
How is surrogacy regulated under the Bill?
The Bill defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an eligible couple and agrees to hand over the child after the birth to them. The Bill allows altruistic surrogacy which involves a surrogacy arrangement where the monetary reward only involves medical expenses and insurance coverage for the surrogate mother. Commercial surrogacy is prohibited under the Bill. This type of surrogacy includes a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) that exceeds basic medical expenses and insurance for the surrogate mother.
What is the eligibility criteria for couples intending to commission surrogacy?
In order to be eligible, the couple intending to commission a surrogacy arrangement must be a close relative of the surrogate mother. In addition, the couple has to prove that they fulfil all of the following conditions:
- They are Indian citizens who have been married for at least five years;
- They are in the age group of 23-50 years (female partner) and 26-55 years (male partner);
- A medical certificate stating that either or both partners are infertile;
- They do not have any surviving child (whether biological, adopted or surrogate), except if the surviving child is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a fatal illness;
- A court order concerning the parentage and custody of the child to be born through surrogacy;
- Insurance coverage for the surrogate mother.
Additional eligibility conditions that the intending couple need to meet may be specified by regulations. It could be argued that the qualifying conditions for surrogacy should be specified in the Bill and not be delegated to regulations.
Who is a close relative under the Bill?
The Bill does not define the term close relative.
Who is eligible to be a surrogate mother?
The surrogate mother, apart from proving that she is a close relative of the couple intending the surrogacy, also has to prove all the following conditions:
- She was or is married and has a child of her own;
- She is 25 to 35 years old;
- She has not been a surrogate mother before;
- She possesses a medical certificate of her fitness for surrogacy.
What will be the legal status of a surrogate child?
The Bill states that any child born out of a surrogacy procedure shall be the biological child of the intending couple and will be entitled to all rights and privileges that are available to a natural child.
What is the process for commissioning a surrogacy?
The intending couple and the surrogate mother can undergo a surrogacy procedure only at surrogacy clinics that are registered with the government. To initiate the procedure, the couple and the surrogate mother need to possess certificates to prove that there are eligible. These certificates will be granted by a government authority if the couple and the surrogate mother fulfill all the conditions mentioned above. The Bill does not specify a time period within which the authority needs to grant the certificates. Further, the Bill does not specify a review or appeal procedure in case the application for the certificates is rejected.
What is the penalty for engaging in commercial surrogacy under the Bill?
The Bill specifies that any person who takes the aid of a doctor or a surrogacy clinic in order to conduct commercial surrogacy will be punishable with imprisonment for a minimum term of five years and a fine that may extend to five lakh rupees.
Offences such as (i) undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy; (ii) exploiting or abandoning the surrogate mother or child; and (iii) selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy will attract a minimum penalty of 10 years and a fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
[This post has been co – authored by Nivedita Rao]