Jan Vishwas Bill: Description & Analysis

Brief Introduction

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), on the advice of industry organisations and significant stakeholders, has proposed the Bill. The 108-page Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022 as it was presented to the Lok Sabha, calls for amending 183 clauses found in 42 Acts that are controlled by 19 ministries. It suggests replacing many minor offences with monetary fines in order to decriminalise them so as to reduce the compliance burden on individuals and businesses and ensure ease of doing business.

Jan Vishwas Bill

Acts that are amended by the Bill are: The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, The Boilers Act, 1898, The Indian Forest Act, 1927, The Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, The Rubber Act, 1947, The Public Debt Act, 1944, The Pharmacy Act, 1948, The Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Tea Act, 1953, The Copyright Act, 1957, The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961, The Warehousing Corporations Act, 1962, The Food Corporations Act, 1964, The Patents Act, 1970, The Marine Products Export Development Authority Act, 1972, The High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, 1978, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act, 1981, The Spices Board Act, 1986, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, The National Housing Bank Act, 1987, The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, The Railways Act, 1989, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, The Trade Marks Act, 1999, The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, The Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002, The Prevention of Money laundering Act, 2002, The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, The Government Securities Act, 2006, The Cantonments Act, 2006, The Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008, The Legal Metrology Act, 2009, The Factoring Regulation Act, 2011, The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 and the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Key Objectives Of The Bill

The primary objective behind introduction of this bill is to re-instill trust in the people with respect to their Government and the institutions run by it. To achieve this objective, the bill when passed will amend or omit the outdated rules and regulations causing trust deficit. Consequently, the bill amends 42 Acts and redefined the regulatory landscape of the country to put the principles of ‘Minimum Government Maximum Governance,’ the Ease of Living, and Ease of Doing Business into action.

To facilitate the Ease of Living and Ease of Doing Business, the Bill reduces compliance burden by simplifying, digitising and rationalising compliances that were affecting the developmental trajectory of the country and are provided in those 42 Acts.

The Government aims to make India the most preferred global investment destination by boosting investor confidence, which this bill achieves by decriminalising the imprisonment for minor offences and substituting it with monetary penalties. This step was also taken with a view to reduce judicial burden.

The Bill aspires that the settlement of large number of issues, by compounding method, adjudication and administrative mechanism, without involving courts, will enable persons to remedy minor contraventions and defaults, sometimes committed unknowingly by them, and save time, energy and resources.

The Bill while switching to monetary punishments takes care of the principle of rationalisation, thereby provides for the penalties depending on the gravity of offence, bolstering the trust-based governance.

Another novelty involved in the proposal is increase of ten per cent of the minimum amount of fine and penalty levied, after the expiry of every three years, once the Bill becomes a law. Meaning thereby, if a penalty is of 25 lakhs, then after 03 years, it will automatically increase to 27.5 lakhs.

Key Provisions Of The Bill Include The Following

Decriminalisation of various offences:

A number of offences that imprisonment under various Acts have been decriminalised under the Bill by only a monetary penalty. For example, under the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, counterfeiting grade designation marks is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to five thousand rupees. This is replaced with an eight-lakh rupee fine under the Bill. Grade designation mark indicates the quality of an article under the 1937 Act. Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, disclosing personal information in breach of a lawful contract is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine of up to five lakh rupees, or both.  The Bill substitutes a fine of up to a twenty-five-lakh rupee for this.

In certain Acts, offences have been decriminalised by imposing a penalty instead of a fine. For instance, under the Patents Act, 1970, a person selling a falsely represented article as patented in India is subject to a fine of up to one lakh rupees. The Bill replaces the fine with a penalty, which may be up to ten lakh rupees. In case of a continuing claim, there shall be an additional penalty of one thousand rupees per day

Revision of fines and penalties: The Bill increases the fines and penalties for various offences in the specified Acts. Further, these fines and penalties will be increased by 10% of the minimum amount every three years as per Section 03 of the bill.

Appointing adjudicating officers: As per the Bill, the central government may appoint one or more adjudicating officers for the purpose of determining penalties. The adjudicating officers may: (i) summon individuals for evidence, and (ii) conduct inquiries into violations of the respected Acts. These Acts include: the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991.

Appeals against the Appointed Adjudicating Officer: The Bill also specifies the appellate mechanisms for any person aggrieved by the order passed by an adjudicating officer.  In the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, appeals may be filed with the National Green Tribunal within 60 days from the order. In the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, an appeal can be made to Agricultural Marketing Adviser, Government of India within 30 days from the order.

Analysis & Conclusion

Bibek Debroy, in one of his pieces concerning the Bill published recently stated that the Jan Vishwas Bill is only the beginning. There are numerous additional important Acts that contain unreasonable imprisonment clauses that even lead to the harassment of individuals. He stated that slowly they will also be rationalised. Moreover, any decriminalisation effort by the Central Government should also apply to State legislations like the Excise Act and the land regulations.[i] The viewpoint is correct to a major extent as the stringent regulation and the abundance of minor offences with imprisonment are a major predicament in the ease of doing business in India, which is even noted by the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.[ii] This bill is likely to improve this position.

The bill takes into account the method of rationalisation, which can also be seen from the penalties that substituted imprisonment term, thereby the deterrence which was already present during the existence of imprisonment term still exists or it can be said that it increased as it is a saying that if you hurt someone’s political rights, it might not have that impact than that economic rights have. The Bill will also help in reducing the burden of the Indian Judiciary as well as Prisons.

However, it can also be said as a demerit that though the bill is an attempt by the government to establish minimally invasive trust-based governance, this endeavour of the Indian government to stronger the trust towards businesses and organisations does not guarantees that they will behave within bounds and in accordance with the law by decriminalising some minor offences. However, there is a greater chance that there will be an increase in default due to the defaulter’s larger financial resources. While continuing the process of making business easier, the government should also exercise caution before decriminalising any offence or serious penal provision that threatens people’s lives.

Though the current status of the bill is that a joint parliamentary committee made up of 31 members has been given the bill for review. It is expected that by the second half of the 2023 budget session, the committee will deliver its report to the legislature.

Author: Kaustubh Kumar, 3rd year student at the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

REFRENCES

[i] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-commentary/how-jan-vishwas-bill-will-bury-statutes-that-are-not-only-archaic-but-lead-to-harassment/articleshow/96837195.cms.

[ii] https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/688761571934946384/pdf/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies.pdf

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