PRESSING PRIORITY: THE POPULATION CONTROL BILL, 2020

PRESSING PRIORITY: THE POPULATION CONTROL BILL, 2020

Introduction

According to UN World Population Prospects 2019, India’s population is going to overtake China in around a decade. The increasing population of India is the root problem of most of the issues such as poverty, starvation, human trafficking etc. Furthermore, the Economic Survey conducted in the year 2018 stated the term ‘son meta preference’ which actually means having the desire of a male child which consequently resulted in 21 million ‘unwanted girls’. In a desire of male child people have more than 4 children, who not only affect the health of mother but a girl is treated as burden on the family. Indeed, the families do not think about health of the mother or their financial disability to feed their children, in front of their desire of male child.

Government Initiatives

There are various steps taken by the Government of India since Independence to keep the check on India’s Population for improving public health in the country. Moreover, the country has undertaken various measures such as –

  • National Family Program, 1951.
  • Mission Parivar Vikas to increase the access of contraceptives as well as family planning services in the 146 districts where the fertility rate is more.
  • 42nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1976 which had put the issue of population control under Schedule IV of the Concurrent List of the Constitution, thereby empowering the State as well as Union Government to take measures in the aforementioned respect.
  • States also have taken various measures to keep check on the increasing population.

Despite taking many measures by the government there seems no hope of population control. A ray of hope for a legislation has been seen in the Private Member Bill, namely the Population Control Bill, 2020 (hereinafter “Bill”) which has been drafted by Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi (he is a Senior Advocate and Congress MP). As the Bill consists of monetary implications which required president’s permission. Further, according to Indian Express, the president has already provided consent before Lockdown.

Significant Provisions of the Bill

The Bill aims to provide incentives to couples adhering to the two-child norm. Furthermore, the Bill ensures availability of contraceptives at reasonable rate in every Health Centre. Other significant provisions provided in the Bill are as follows-

  • If the parents of single child voluntarily undergo the process of sterilization, then the government should provide benefits such as admission in institutes for higher education and selection in government jobs.
  • The Bill provides special monetary benefits to the couples below poverty line and undergoes the voluntary process of sterilization.
  • The bill states about forming the District Population Stabilisation Committee which may monitor the working under the Bill.
  • Section 8 of the Bill talks about debarring the couples from various facilities, such as Panchayat, contesting election in Rajya Sabha etc. Also, the Bill talks about debarring the couple having more than two-child from certain jobs and their promotion.
  • The Bill speaks about ‘Introduction of a chapter relating to population control in the senior secondary classes’. The chapter will help in creating awareness among the children in early age.
  • Another effective measure is formation of a National Stabilization Fund which will help Central and State Government in better implementation of policies.
  • Section 12 of the proposed Bill, states that every Central Government employee shall submit an undertaking, pledging that they will not procreate more than two children. Additionally, in case of violation of this norm it will lead to dismissal of employee.

Constitutional Validity of the Bill

The main objective of the Bill is to control the growing population of India which will help India to boost its economy. The Bill possesses its own benefits and restrictions, which may be stand against the Constitution of India. For better understanding of this Bill, let’s compare it from Constitution of India in the light of landmark judgment Javed v. State of Haryana.

Article 14         

Article 14 of Constitution of India guarantees Right to Equality. The Article ensures that no citizen of India is denied equality before law or equal protection of law by the State within the Indian Territory.

At first sight, the Bill provides unequal treatment to the couples having two children and more than two children. However, if we observe then the Bill falls under the exception rational discrimination and affirmative action.

In order to take benefit of this exception, the discrimination should be based on the ‘intelligible differentia’ and ‘rational nexus’. Moreover, guarantee for equality does not mean identical applicability of the same rules over all person. As the applicability depends on different circumstances and treatment of un-equals as equals will result into violation of Article 14.

Article 21

This Article of the Constitution ensures right to life and personal dignity, therefore the article has a crucial role to play in a person’s life except for the procedure established by law.

Prima facie the Bill might stand in contradiction of this Article as reproduction is a question of individual liberty. Nevertheless, the Bill might infringe the newly recognized un-enumerated Right to Privacy of an individual.

Nonetheless, if observed from the flip side the Bill cannot be held to be violative of Article 21 that the essence of this right is enjoyment of a quality life by people. Indeed this Bill attempts to achieve the same by keeping a check on the rapidly increasing population of the country and promoting family planning program.

Furthermore, if the question arises that the child is deprived of his Right to Life by way of the restrictions imposed in the Bill. Then, the point to be noted here is, ‘Right to Life’ extends only to a person whereas an unborn child in the womb holds the status of ‘foetus’ according to the definition provided under Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994.

Conclusion

India is proud for having the youngest population in the world, but augmenting population is putting pressure on India’s limited natural resources. The Bill will be applied to all irrespective of gender, caste or religion. The priority of this Bill is to stabilize the growth rate of the population.  Further, the bill may affect the marginalized groups of our society and can raise issue on the basis of religion.

Another point worth noticing is that after implementing one-child policy, now China badly wants to rise in birth rates shore up its falling labour force as for development it is necessary to maintain the ageing population. The role of population growth in our current economy shall be examined more closely. The other questions in issue shall also be examined carefully such as, will this Bill help in growth of our GDP?

 

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