Another open letter to Shri Rahul Gandhi

Dear Shri Rahul Gandhi

I am angry and this is a serious letter. So I am not going to throw cheap banters at you. I have also consciously decided to not throw any personal insult at you. I will go ahead with this letter with an assumption that this country has to put up with you till some real leader is allowed to surface on the national scene from your party.

Last few days have been tough. The National Herald Case seems to be bothering you a tad too much and you have been staging a walkout from the Parliament with a mind-bending consistency. The bookies can now shift their focus from cricket and instead bet on the question of ‘Who will lead the walk-out today?’ Didn’t you do the same thing in the last session? I wonder if your doctor has prescribed you with ‘Daily Walks’ and you confused it with ‘Daily Walk-Outs’! In all probability, I believe you just get bored when drawn to details. I might end up doing exactly that now.

I have a few things to tell you that you might have forgotten to read on that secret-agentish holiday of yours. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and neither are the contents of it. I am just trying to make you understand the gravity of the situation in short. Nevertheless, you will have to overcome your attention deficit issue to wade through the entire list. Two things first –

1. India runs on a written constitution. The constitution has ruled that India has three engines for governance – The Legislative, The Executive, and The Judiciary.

2. These three engines have very clear distinctions of roles. So, you must understand that a bill pending in the Parliament can’t be passed in the court, and this might interest you – the opposite is not possible either. So, a case pending against your name can’t be debated and decided in the Parliament. So I don’t see any reason for you to disrupt the Parliament proceedings. It’s a lawsuit. Be a man. Fight it out in the court if you think that there’s a political motive. You will earn greater respect. Your actions in the Parliament can only be likened to those of crybabies (No, I am not targeting your mother. Subramanian Swamy is handling that very well.).

Now that you might already be smelling the objective of this letter, let’s get down to more serious things. The winter session started on November 26 and is going to end on December 23, 2015. I am writing this on December 14th. There are 19 bills pending that have to be discussed for passage and 14 new bills are to be introduced. I’m not sure if your office has given you a walk-through of the bills list, so let me just take you through some of the most critical ones that can’t wait for the solution of National Herald Case through the Parliament –

1. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control)Bill, 2014

The Bill seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, places obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and creates mechanisms for redressing their complaints.

Every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household. The Bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.

The Bill requires that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research will be conducted on a person without his informed consent. No person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required by a court order.

An ombudsman shall be appointed by each state government to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. The Ombudsman shall submit a report to the state government every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken and orders passed.

Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant. When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.

Interestingly, this bill was floated by the then Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2014. Lest you forget, he belongs to your party.

2. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013

Residential real estate projects, with some exceptions, need to be registered with RERAs. Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them. Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs.

On registration, the promoter must upload details of the project on the website of the RERA. These include the site and layout plan, and schedule for completion of the real estate project.

70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project must be maintained in a separate bank account and must only be used for construction of that project. The state government can alter this amount to less than 70%.

The Bill establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals. Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals.

3. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014

The Bill seeks to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The Act prohibits the commission of offences against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs) and establishes special courts for the trial of such offences and the rehabilitation of victims.

Forcing an SC or ST individual to vote or not vote for a particular candidate in a manner that is against the law is an offence under the Act. The Bill adds that impeding certain activities related to voting will also be considered an offence. Wrongfully occupying land belonging to SCs or STs is an offence under the Act. The Bill defines ‘wrongful’ in this context, which was not done under the Act.

Assaulting or sexual exploiting an SC or ST woman is an offence under the Act. The Bill adds that: (a) intentionally touching an SC or ST woman in a sexual manner without her consent, or (b) using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature, or (c) dedicating an SC or ST women as a devadasi to a temple, or any similar practice will also be considered an offence. Consent is defined as a voluntary agreement through verbal or non-verbal communication.

New offences added under the Bill include: (a) garlanding with footwear, (b) compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or do manual scavenging, (c) abusing SCs or STs by caste name in public, (d) attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs or STs or disrespecting any deceased person held in high esteem, and (e) imposing or threatening a social or economic boycott.

There are other points to the bill. Please ask Mr. Venkaiah Naidu for a copy.

4. The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013

The Statements of Objects and Reasons to the Bill, state the government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.  The Convention requires the laws of the country to align with the Convention. The new Bill was introduced as the existing Act does not adequately protect the rights of persons with mental illness nor promote their access to mental health care.

Rights of persons with mental illness: Every person shall have the right to access mental health care and treatment from services run or funded by the government.  The right to access mental health care includes affordable, good quality of and easy access to services. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care.

Advance Directive: A mentally-ill person shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he wants to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation and who his nominated representative shall be.  The advance directive has to be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board.  If a mental health professional/ relative/care-giver does not wish to follow the directive while treating the person, he can make an application to the Mental Health Board to review/alter/cancel the advance directive.

5. The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Act provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, willful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants.

The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information.

These categories include information related to: (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.

6. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014

Permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences and provides for institutional care for children in need of protection and care.

Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be constituted in each district.  The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.  The CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection.

Eligibility of adoptive parents and the procedure for adoption have been included in the Bill.

Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed.

7. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill, 2015

Increases the allowance for investment in plants and machinery in micro, small and medium enterprises engaged in manufacture or services.

The limit of investment in plant or machinery for enterprises engaged in the manufacture or production of goods, and the limit of investment in equipment for enterprises engaged in services has been increased.

8. The Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014

I will leave the details of this one for you to figure out in your next ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ with Mr. Prime Minister.

I join my hands in humility and I accept that you wield great power over your intellectually challenged MPs but for Chhota Bheem’s sake please wake up to the day. Kindly don’t take this country hostage for your ill-fetched ambitions. I have just two things to conclude this letter with –

1. This is a country, not a game of Mario.

2. The Parliament is there to run the country, not your family. It would serve us better if you keep your dining table worries out of it.

The Tragedy of This Country – The Parliament that is entrusted with the task of running and developing the country passed only 1 out of the planned 12 bills in the monsoon session. That’s an efficiency of 8.33%. Reasons? Shouldn’t be hard for you to guess. You have 9 more days to fall to a new low though.

I am angry, and I am sad because this unfortunate country has to see this all, bear this all without making a sound!

If you have reached till here, I thank you sincerely.

The BookStalkist

Reference –  (Details of the bills) of Monsoon Session) (for Rahul Gandhi’s photograph)