Law of the land represents norms of society and what is considered good, equal, and fair for that society. The laws are made to govern the behavior of people in accordance with society’s norms. A society is judged on the touchstone of laws made by it. December 2021 has witnessed many laws being made by Parliament and State Legislatures, time will decide about their effectiveness, but knowing them would be beneficial.
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- Raising the Age of Marriage: The age of marriage of females is sought to be raised to 21 years bringing it at par with males. This provision is made applicable to all citizens irrespective of their Personal Laws. Earlier, this age was 18 years.
Despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 being in force for the last 15 years still India witnesses rampant child marriages. Pandemic added to the agony of girl children who have lost their childhood and adolescence to the curse of child marriage. Undernourishment, complications due to early pregnancies, and lack of maturity followed the child marriages which were never considered important by proponents of early marriage. The adverse effects of all these are sought to be corrected by this law.
The most important result that can be foreseen by raising the age of marriage is the empowerment of women financially, physically, socially, and psychologically. Her right to have higher education could be extended in a better way. Once, she is empowered she would be able to enforce her right to choose her life partner, not being bound by shackles of religion and caste. It will serve towards the goal of national integration in a better way.
- Shakti Bill: While Parliament was busy discussing the age of marriage, Maharashtra Legislature passed the Shakti Bill making penal provisions more stringent in crime against women. This law in addition to providing the death penalty for offenses of heinous nature, made Social Media Platforms, Internet or Telephone Data providers responsible to furnish information and their failure would attract punishment.
A false complaint would attract punishment up to one year and a Public Servant disobeying directions given by a Police Officer in the investigation of offenses relating to rape would be liable to be penalized.
This is a good law that would put investigation and trial of these offenses into Fast Track, requirement of witnesses recognized by the Women and Child Department at the time of search would decrease the possibility of witnesses turning hostile and also false implication.
These stringent penalties were needed considering the rising graph of offenses against women and children, at the same time, we must understand that only law-making can never eradicate evils in society unless we ourselves take corrective measures.
- Anti-Mob Lynching: Jharkhand proved itself to be the most progressive State by bringing a law that makes mob lynching a criminal offense. Supreme Court on 17th July 2018 had issued directions to centers and State Governments to make proper laws to curb the tendency of mob lynching, within 3 years Jharkhand has shown the will to take a step forward for guaranteeing Constitutional Right under Article 21 of ‘Right to Life’.
While many State Governments have been silent spectators to the call of terrorists for the genocide of minorities, the country has witnessed political leaders garlanding accused of mob lynching, therefore, the act of Jharkhand Legislature of passing a law against mob lynching gathers more significance in these dark times. Let us hope good sense would prevail over other Legislatures and we will see similar protective laws in other States as well.
- Electoral Reforms: Parliament passed a bill to amend the Representation of People Act, 1950, and made provision for linking Aadhar with Voters List. The Voters List for the Parliamentary and State Legislative Elections are prepared under this Act of 1950, but for Local Bodies Election, we have separate State Acts which are in turn independent of each other like Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, Village Panchayats Act, Municipal Corporations Act, Municipal Councils Act, etc. All these laws have their exclusive provisions for the preparation of the Voters List and distinct election programs.
Mostly in Local Body Elections, a complaint is most often received is about inclusions of names and casting of votes by a person not residing within the territory of that Local Body so also voting by the same person in Urban as well as Rural Bodies Election. Most election disputes have this common phenomenon.
Another problem with the Voters List was improper entries of names and addresses. The earlier system required eligible Voters to go and register themselves, due to apathy or lack of awareness many eligible Voters did not enroll themselves. This causes an adverse cumulative effect on the percentage of voting.
Amendment introducing linking of Aadhar could be seen as the solution to many problems, it will help in weeding out the Voters having their names in the List of multiple constituencies. Another problem of regular updation of List on behest of Voter could be solved as any change in Aadhar will have its effect on correction of Voters List. In fact, Aadhar data should be merged with data of the Election Commission so that anyone attaining 18 years of age should be automatically enrolled as Voter.
Many objections are being raised against this development of linking Aadhar with the Voters List. The main reason for these objections is the trust deficit amongst the citizens and the Government that had arisen after the defective policy of demonetization, privatization, and unconstitutional enactments like Farm Laws, GST, CAA, etc.
The apprehensions about the misuse of data, targeting minorities or segments suspected to be against the ruling party, mandatory nature of Aadhar linking which may lead to disenfranchisement, etc. can be dealt with by amending Rules and prescribing penal action against responsible Officers.
There would be different views about any enactment but with the change of times and advancement of technology, we have to update our laws, make them more friendly towards people. Present amendment about Aadhar linking is one of such that needs to be welcomed is in true sense a step towards electoral reforms in India.
- Withdrawal of Farming Laws: In recent times, India has witnessed a massive uprising of farmers against laws that were made without consultation with stakeholders. In a welcome move, Parliament withdrew these laws. Now, the wait is for one more step towards the betterment of farmers of giving Minimum Support Price legal status.
While we have witnessed the making of some good laws, simultaneously some Legislatures were busy framing laws contrary to Article 25 of the Constitution that guarantees Freedom of Conscience and Free Profession, Practice and Propagation of Religion. These laws are seen as weapons against vulnerable minorities and curbing arbitrarily the Right of Citizens of choosing their Religion. These laws will have to undergo scrutiny by Courts but till then freedom of citizens is at peril.
Whether the above-mentioned laws will be beneficial is a question that would be answered by the passage of time and the intention of executives in enforcing it. Any law can be used against the citizens or to protect their Fundamental Rights. This remains in the constitutional morality of our society.
Firdos Mirza, Advocate,
Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court