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AUGUST 10, 2017

Railways gets relief from GST cut on works contract

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council’s decision to roll back the increase in tax rate for government works contracts comes as a relief for the Indian Railways which had received representations from contractors on increased tax liability on various ongoing projects.
  • “The GST Council’s decision to cut back GST on contract works to 12% has come as a big relief to us as there was huge uncertainty,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.
  • “The contractors were demanding more money for contracts awarded before July 1 due to increased tax liability but the Railways had refused to pay for the higher tax amount,” the official said.
  • The tax on construction activity, including composite works contracts, was increased to 18% from 12% under GST. However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced after the GST Council meeting on Saturday that government works contracts, for both Centre and States, would attract 12% GST with input tax credit.

‘No takers for EVM Challenge’

  • The Election Commission told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that its ‘EVM Challenge’ had hardly any taker among the political parties.
  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, is considering the question whether Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be tampered with. It is also looking into the incorporation of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) into EVMs.
  • “Thus, no political party or person was able to demonstrate how the EVMs could be tampered with during the course of the challenge. Subsequently, the Election Commission issued a press note wherein it reiterated its commitment to holding all future elections with VVPATs,” it said. The EC said it was “committed to implementing VVPATs nationwide by 2019.”

SC seeks details of convictions under Child Marriage Act

  • As the Centre said Parliament must have thought it ‘pragmatic’ to reduce the age of consent for sexual relations for married girls from 18 to 15 as the child marriage system still exists in the country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to provide details of the number of child marriage prohibition officers and prosecutions initiated under the Child Marriage Act in the past three years.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta is hearing a petition filed by NGO Independent Thought challenging the Exception 2 to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, which permits “intrusive sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 15 and 18 only on the ground that she is married.”

‘Discriminatory law’

  • The NGO, represented by advocate Gaurav Agarwal, submitted that this statutory exception to rape was violative of right to life, liberty, equality and was discriminatory. The Exception is part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 and is contrary to the anti-child sex abuse law, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 (POCSO).
  • Agarwal said the law “violates the health of not only the girl child concerned, but also generations to come.” He said there were 23 million child brides in India, and there had hardly been over six convictions under the anti-child marriage law.
  • “We see a girl under 18 as a child in POCSO, but once she is married, she is no more a child under the Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC. This is totally inconsistent. The truth is that a girl under 18 is still a child, married or not. Parliament has to protect the child,” Mr. Agarwal said.

Court’s caution

  • However, Justice Gupta said there may be a flip side if the court quashed this exception. “Let’s say a 17-year-old boy gets married to a 16-year-old girl. …The boy stands the chance of getting convicted for seven years. But the parents, the real culprits, may get off with a few months’ imprisonment,” Justice Gupta observed.
  • Justice Lokur observed that it cannot be “presumed that just because a girl is less than 18, she does not understand the consequences of her actions. Under the new Juvenile Justice Act, a girl between the age of 16 and 18, if she commits murder, can be tried by an adult court.”