The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023 (Act), was approved by the President on 11 August 2023. Its enforcement will be determined by the Central Government through notification, with varied dates for amendments in the Schedule. The Act led by the Commerce and Industry Minister, seeks to ease daily life and business operations by amending 183 provisions in 42 Central Acts under 19 Ministries. It aims to decriminalize these provisions for a more business-friendly environment.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry spearheading this initiative suggests that the focus might be on creating a more business-friendly environment and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. By decriminalizing provisions within these Central Acts, the government may intend to encourage risk-taking, innovation and investment by providing greater legal clarity and reducing the fear of unintended legal consequences.
However, while the proposal to decriminalize provisions is aimed at streamlining processes and fostering economic growth, it is important to carefully consider the implications of such amendments. Striking a balance between promoting ease of business and ensuring accountability and responsible conduct is crucial. Some provisions might be related to public safety, consumer protection, environmental safeguards, and more, which need to be assessed thoroughly to prevent any negative consequences. The effectiveness of this legislation would depend on the specifics of the amendments, the clarity of language used, and the mechanisms put in place to ensure that the intended benefits are realized without compromising on the larger interests of society.
PURPOSE OF THE ACT
The Act serves a twofold purpose; one to elevate both the quality of everyday life and second to promote the business environment in the nation. By targeting a wide array of sectors like agriculture, media, health, and the environment, the proposed amendments aim to address outdated or problematic aspects of these Acts. The Act's intent is to streamline and modernize these regulations, fostering a more business-friendly climate and simplifying the lives of citizens. The Act reflects a comprehensive effort to harmonize legal frameworks with contemporary needs, thereby promoting ease of living and facilitating smoother business operations across diverse sectors.
- Fines and penalties in multiple provisions to increase by ten percent of the minimum amount every three years.
- A total of 183 provisions across 42 Central Acts, overseen by 19 Ministries/Departments, to be decriminalized.
- Decriminalization achieved through various methods:
- Elimination of both imprisonment and/or fines in certain provisions;
- Removal of imprisonment while retaining fines in select provisions;
- Elimination of imprisonment while increasing fines in specific provisions;
- Conversion of imprisonment and fines to penalties in some cases;
- Introduction of compounding of offenses in a few provisions;
NATURE OF AMENDMENTS
The changes suggested in the Act aim to make certain provisions less focused on punishment by taking actions like eliminating imprisonment and increasing the fines, and introducing penalties or alternatives. These changes aim to streamline punitive measures within the legal framework to achieve desired outcomes.
For example, some of the proposed amendments in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (Drugs and Cosmetics Act) are: the current provisions of Section 27(d) and Section 27A(ii) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act mandate imprisonment of up to 2 years and a minimum fine of INR 20,000 for spurious cosmetics, adulterated drugs, certain drug and cosmetics-related convictions. Proposed amendments suggest a compounding option for violations, through an addition to Section 32(B) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Similarly, Section 29 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act provides for penalties for misusing a government analyst's report for drug/cosmetic advertising. The Act proposes to increase the penalty for the above mentioned violation from INR 5,000 to INR 1,00,000. The amendment to Section 30(2) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act proposes replacing imprisonment with a fine of INR 5,00,000 for subsequent offenses involving the same violation. These changes aim to provide legal clarity and streamline penalties.
Under the proposed amendments to the Trade Marks Act, 1999 (Trade Marks Act), the Act aims to strengthen penalties for specific offenses and introduce two new sections concerning penalties and appeals. It grants authority to a designated officer for adjudication and penalties related to Trade Marks Act violations. Proposed Section 112B outlines the appeal process, requiring the aggrieved party to appeal within 60 days, and the appellate authority to address appeals within 60 days of filing. Additionally, the Act empowers the Central Government to create rules for inquiry and appeals.
Further, under the Customs Act, 1962 (Customs Act) the Commissioner of Customs can request information on goods with false trademarks, and non-compliance results in a fine of INR 10,000. The Act extends this power to the Customs Act authority for penalty imposition and collection.
In conclusion, the Act marks a significant step towards fostering a business-friendly environment and enhancing ease of living. By decriminalizing provisions and introducing streamlined penalties, it aims to encourage innovation, investment, and entrepreneurship. This proactive approach has the potential to boost economic growth and simplify legal processes. However, the challenge lies in striking the right balance between promoting ease of business and ensuring answerability, especially in cases involving public safety and consumer protection. While the Act holds promise for improving the regulatory landscape, careful implementation and monitoring will be crucial to prevent any unintended negative consequences and to maintain societal interests.
Originally published by 25 August, 2023
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