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Bill tabled to decriminalise offences, Section 66A to be omitted from IT Act | India News

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NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday introduced Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022, in Lok Sabha, which seeks to amend 183 provisions across 42 laws and is meant to decriminalise several offences and allow for compounding and rationalisation of penalties as part of a move to “enhance trust-based governance for ease of living and doing business”.
On the list of provisions proposed to be omitted is the controversial Section 66A from the Information Technology Act that saw adverse court rulings. The government has also proposed that after the new law comes into force, every three years, the minimum fine and penalty will increase by 10%.
The bill, introduced amid continuous din due to the opposition protests demanding a discussion on China, was referred to a joint committee of the Houses at the request of commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, who piloted it. Over the last few years, the government has sought to decriminalise several laws, such as the Companies Act, but this is the most comprehensive exercise.
Various minor violations across legislations, some going back over a century, which involved jail term are being decriminalised. The list includes aspects like carrying or using non-biodegradable nature-polythene bags, which carried an imprisonment of up to six months under the Cantonments Act, 2006. The monetary penalty of up to Rs 5,000 for the first offence is being retained, with subsequent violations attracting a fine of Rs 10,000.
Similarly, imprisonment of up to two years under Indian Post Office Act, 1898, for sending unpaid postal articles is being removed as is also the case with pasturing of cattle that attracted up to six months in jail under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, although the fine of Rs 500 is proposed to be retained.
There is a provision in the Railways Act, 1989, which allowed for jail and penalty for those begging in coaches or railway stations. The bill has proposed: “No person shall be permitted to beg in any railway carriage or upon any part of the railway.”
Further, there are provisions in the Tea Act, 1953 that allowed the government for levy of penalty for “illicit cultivation” and removal of tea planted without permission, which are being done away with along with certain provisions for imprisonment.
Giving false information to the legal metrology officer, controller or director under Legal Metrology Act, 2009, is proposed to be made a compoundable offence, which means a violator can get away by paying a monetary penalty as is the case with minor traffic violations.
Provisions in the Collection of Statistics Act 2009 are also proposed to be decriminalised with minor procedural offences like failure to produce books, accounts, documents, or records or making false or misleading statements. Provisions for imprisonment are being removed, and in some cases, are being replaced with fine.
Similarly, imprisonment under the Public Debt Act for making a false statement is also being omitted. There were provisions in the Warehousing Act and Food Corporations Act that allowed for a jail term for those using the name of the entities without their consent, which are now proposed to be dropped.
At the same time, penalty for fudging of books under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act has been enhanced significantly while the provision for jail term has been dispensed with. Amendments to the penalties under the High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, 1978 have also been proposed.
The 31-member parliamentary panel, which will review the provisions, has a deadline of submitting its report to the LS by the first week of the second part of the Budget session 2023.

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