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Review: Why is the assurance on ‘Pre-Nuptial Agreements’ dropped?

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The “Committee on Governance Assurances” is authorized to drop assurances made by the government on the floor of the house based on reasons provided by the respective ministries. Here is a review of some of the dropped assurances and the reasons provided.

In response to the debates & questions in the parliament, the government on various occasions makes assurances/promises, updates on action taken, or assurance of future action. These are referred to as “Assurances”.

The “Committee on Governance Assurances” is constituted by both the “Lok Sabha” & “Rajya Sabha” to review and ensure that the assurances made by the government are implemented in a reasonable time frame.

Factly has earlier highlighted that around 60% of the assurances made in the current Lok Sabha are pending, while in the case of Rajya Sabha it is 61%. Among the assurances that are pending in the Lok Sabha, 70% of them were made prior to 2018.

Assurances remain pending for a long time due to various reasons. Sometimes, the ministries request the ‘Committee on Governance Assurances’ to drop the assurances, as they continue to remain pending for various reasons. These requests are taken up and reviewed by the Committee and are either acceded to or rejected.

Recently, the Lok Sabha’s ‘Committee on Government Assurances’ submitted reports relating to the action taken on the requests to drop government assurances. This includes the 52nd report i.e., Requests for dropping assurances (Acceded to), and the 53rd report i.e., Requests for dropping assurances (Not acceded to).

In this two-part series, we review the reasons by the respective ministries for requesting the dropping of assurances in Lok Sabha and the subsequent action taken by the committee.

In the first part, we look at the assurances dropped by the committee for the following two reasons

  • The assurances cannot be fulfilled in the near future
  • The assurances are no longer under consideration and would not be fulfilled.

21 out of the 27 pending assurances taken up by the Committee (2021-22) dropped.

Lok Sabha’s Committee on Government Assurances (2021-22) received requests to drop 27 pending assurances.

These 27 pending assurances are related to 14 distinct topics discussed in the Lok Sabha.  The Committee met on 12 August 2021, to discuss the dropping of the 27 pending assurances. After the discussion, the committee has decided to drop 21 pending assurances.

For 2020-21, the committee met during April 2021 and decided to drop 15 of the 26 requests received for dropping. However, in an earlier sitting during January 2021, the committee dropped only 5 of the 23 requests received.

Assurances related to Power Generation from Neutrino Laboratory and Defence Deal Augusta Westland among those dropped

The respective Ministries cited various reasons in their requests to drop the assurances. One of the common reasons cited was that it would take a long time to fulfill the assurances. The dependence on investigations, clearances, etc. makes it difficult for these assurances to be fulfilled in near future, according to the government.

The committee took cognizance of the dependence of the respective ministries on other departments and the prospective delay and decided to drop the pending assurances.

Few such dropped assurances include:

Unstarred Question 3979 (Department of Atomic Energy)
The question was about ‘Power Generation from Neutrino Laboratory’, and was dropped for the following reasons.

  • NOC for Wildlife clearance was sent by Govt. Kerala to Govt. of Tamil Nadu.
  • Building clearance for the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) site is awaited. Comments received from the public by MoEF & CC are being reviewed.
  • An appeal by NGO in Supreme Court is sub-judice.
  • After receiving wildlife clearance, INO needs to apply for certification with TN Pollution Control Board.  
  • Since Judicial review is pending, the assurance cannot be fulfilled in near future.

Unstarred Questions 6968 & 1395 (Department of Defence)
The questions were about ‘Procurement of Helicopters’, and the ‘Defence deal with Augusta West land’. These were dropped for the following reasons.

  • In the first update on 26 July 2016, the Ministry stated that the investigation is pending with CBI and there is no definite timeline to complete the investigation.
  • Five related assurances were earlier dropped in the 24th report of the committee as the matter is Sub-judice.
  • Hence, the 2 remaining assurances are being dropped in the current report due to the same reasons.

Unstarred Question 5587 (Department of Higher Education)
The question was about ‘Publishing as Small-Scale Sector.’, and it was dropped for the following reasons.

  • 12-member task force constituted by National Book Promotion Council (NBPC) to draft National Book Promotion Policy (NBPP).
  • NBPC directed the Ministry to resolve issues related to book publishing. Since these were under consultation, a request was raised to drop the assurance in 2013 but was denied.
  • An inter-ministerial meeting was held to discuss the issues and the comments were being reviewed. In view of the changes since the draft was made, a fresh review was needed. Another request to drop the assurance in 2015 was denied.
  • The onset of COVID-19 has changed the publishing scene with the need for digital content. Hence it needs a completely fresh review. In view of the time needed, the assurance cannot be fulfilled in near future. The committee hence dropped the request.

Unstarred Question 4699 (Ministry of Corporate Affairs)
The question was about ‘Investigation of Fraud & affairs of IL&FS’, and it was dropped for the following reasons.

  • Ministry assigned Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to investigate the affairs of ILFS in 2018.
  • The report was submitted by SFIO, and prosecutions were filed before Special court.
  • Petitions were filed before NCLT, NCLAT & Bombay High court, and in the Supreme court challenging the constitutional validity of prosecution.
  • In view of the pending judicial process, the assurance would take time.

Assurances related to Pre-nuptial agreements and Policy on Women Entitlement among those dropped as they cannot be fulfilled.

Among the assurances that were dropped include those that cannot be fulfilled by the respective Ministries.

Here is a snapshot of such assurances dropped by the committee.

Unstarred Questions 1146 & 3564 (Ministry of Women & Child Development)
The questions were about ‘Pre-Nuptial Agreements’. These were dropped for the following reasons.

  • In 2015, the Ministry was exploring the concept of Pre-nuptial agreements to provide women simpler & speedier way to access matrimonial rights.
  • One of the views from the discussion was that it would benefit only a small section of women who are educated & empowered.
  • Further, in India, marriage is treated as an institution beyond contracts & agreements.  
  • In lieu of these and since the review of policies is a continuous process, the specific assurance was dropped.

Unstarred Questions 2266, 2789, 2655, 2555, 951 (Ministry of Women & Child Development)
The questions were about ‘Policy on Women Entitlement which is aimed at creating awareness regarding the rights of women, schemes, programs, etc.’ These were dropped for the following reasons.

  • A cabinet note on National policy for Women was sent to Cabinet Secretariat for consideration in September 2019.
  • The note stated that this proposal is no longer under consideration and there might be a review in the future as part of the continuous process of policy review.

Unstarred Question 1910 (Ministry of AYUSH)
The question was about ‘Aadhar based attendance system for Teaching & Non-teaching staff, hospital staff & PG students.’, and it was dropped for the following reasons.

  • AYUSH Ministry took this up with the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) & the Central Council Of Homoeopathy (CCH).
  • CCIM in its note referred to the case “Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India & Ors.”
  • Based on the judgment, CCIM has terminated its agreement with UIDAI and is not proceeding with Aadhar based attendance system.

In the second part of the story, we would look at the assurances that were dropped since the fulfillment is related to a different Ministry. We will also look at the assurances that were not dropped by the Lok Sabha’s Committee on Assurances (2021-22).

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