Law Ministry to re-draft EOC Bill

September 7, 2009: The Indian Express

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Bill, which will now be drafted by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, will be quite different from the draft Bill prepared and circulated by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, the nodal agency for the proposed Act.

With a majority of Central government ministries refusing to accept the draft Bill it in its present form, the Ministry had taken it back to the drawing board to redraft it, taking into consideration the objections raised by the ministries including Home, HRD and Law.

“The Bill will certainly be different from what the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been demanding. We have to consider the opinions and comments, particularly the adverse reports, sent by different ministries,¶ said a senior Law Ministry official.

Commenting upon the draft Bill, Home Secretary G K Pillai wrote that the definition of “deprived group¶ in the draft was “vague¶ and “liable for misuse¶. Pillai also observed that “equal opportunities have to be given to individuals and can’t be given to groups because within the groups there would be persons who are more advantaged¶.

He has also said that the definitions of private and autonomous enterprises given in the draft are also “quite vague¶.

“The MHA is, therefore, not in favour of such a legislation,¶ the officer said, however adding that the establishment of the EOC continues to a priority for the government.

The EOC is to be set up on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and once the Act is passed, it would result in the establishment of a seven-member ombudsman to address the grievances of “deprived groups¶.

Planned as a national as well as a regional-level set up, the jurisdiction of the proposed panel would extend to all “deprived groups¶, who have been “denied or who claim to have been denied equal opportunities by government, public and private bodies, and in particular with reference to education and employment¶.

While the HRD Ministry has opposed the proposal on the ground that it is undesirable when there were already several national-level bodies and commissions for affirmative action, the Law Ministry has reservations with regard to overlapping of functions of the proposed Commission with those of the existing commissions.

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