Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Kerala Public Health Bill, 2023: Can the Final Approval be Done Without Discussion? What Charges Might the Government Face from the Supreme Court?

Date:

The new and comprehensive Kerala Public Health Bill, 2023, unifying the provisions in the Madras Public Health Act, 1939 and the Travancore-Cochin Public Health Act, 1955 was passed by the Assembly.

The sudden passage of the Public Health Bill without any prior discussion or debate has raised eyebrows and sparked an outcry among the public. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is the open and transparent discussion of legislative matters. By skipping this crucial step, the government has been accused of bypassing democratic processes and undermining the voice of the people.

The fifteenth Kerala General Assembly has passed the Public Health Bill without discussion following opposition uproar, which will fuel further marketization of the health sector and strong regulations and enforcement by the state government. The Bill reached the Legislative Assembly with notes from five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) expressing disagreement with the Select Committee’s recommendations that warned about the possibility of serious human rights violations and centralized power exercise. Doctors of the AYUSH department had earlier expressed concern that the health sector will be under the control of Modern medical treatment, however, major organizations are now welcoming the Bill with a few marginal amendments made by the Legislative Select Committee. Under the guise of the World Health Organization’s One Health approach, Kerala is preparing to impose stronger government restrictions and penalties than what happened during the initial year of the COVID pandemic.

The new bill is designed as a unified public health activity for the state as the last 64 years, the state was being governed by two acts namely Travancore Cochin Public Health Act, 1955, and Madras Public Health Act, 1939. Earlier on 23rd February 2021 the draft of the bill was published as an extraordinary gazette on Feb 24th and the Minister for Health and Social Justice presented this in the 15th Kerala assembly on October 27th, 2021. This was then discussed and entrusted to a 15-member Select Committee for detailed study and advice. Many objections were raised during the public hearing of the Bill when it was conducted in four zones of Kerala under the leadership of the Health Minister who is the Chairperson of the Select Committee. Complaints were raised that not only was the public debate on such an important bill so centralized, but the programme of the public hearing was not properly communicated to the people for effective participation. Also, media persons were excluded from the discussions held there and video recording was prevented, which caused a lot of controversies.

However, amidst the ongoing tussle and war of words between the government and the Opposition in the Assembly, the final Bill approved by the 15-member select committee of the legislature was passed tamely without any discussion

The Public Health Bill: Legislation Passed Without Discussion?

In a surprising turn of events, the Public Health Bill was passed through the legislature without any prior discussion or debate. This unprecedented move has left many wondering about the implications and potential charges that the government may face as a result of the Supreme Court’s scrutiny. 

One of the fundamental principles of democracy is the open and transparent discussion of legislative matters. By skipping this crucial step, the government has been accused of bypassing democratic processes and undermining the voice of the people.

The lack of discussion surrounding the Public Health Bill has generated concerns about hidden agendas and potential abuses of power. Without an open debate, it becomes challenging to scrutinize the bill thoroughly and address any flaws or unintended consequences it may have. This lack of transparency raises questions regarding the motives behind the hurried passage of the legislation.

As a consequence of passing the Public Health Bill without discussion, the government now may faces scrutiny from the Supreme Court. The charges brought forth by the Court revolve around the violation of democratic principles and the potential infringement on citizens’ rights. The Court will examine whether the passage of the bill without debate amounts to a breach of constitutional requirements and legislative protocol.

If the Supreme Court finds the government guilty of bypassing democratic processes, serious repercussions may follow. These can include a loss of public trust, challenges to the validity of the legislation, or even the need to start the legislative process from scratch. Additionally, the government may be subjected to public protests and criticism for its lack of transparency and accountability.

The Impact of Unconstitutional Laws

Unconstitutional laws can have far-reaching consequences for the government. If the Supreme Court finds that the Public Health Bill was approved without adequate discussion, it can declare the law invalid and strike it down. This would lead to the annulment of all provisions within the bill, rendering it null and void.

Source: COUNTER CURRENTS, Wikipedia, The Hindu, The South First -Image, Kerala Kaumudi-Image

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