The year 2021 saw major legislations being passed in the Assemblies in the southern states of India. From the anti-conversion Bill, and the anti-NEET Bill, to taking back the law to trifurcate the Andhra Pradesh state capital, it has been a busy year for Legislative Assemblies in 2021. As the year comes to an end, here’s a look at all the major laws and Bills passed in the south states.
On December 23, the Karnataka Assembly passed the contentious anti-conversion Bill, aimed at penalising 'forced' conversions, through a voice vote. The Bill is not a law yet, as it is yet to be passed by the Karnataka Legislative Council. The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, modeled along the lines of similar laws in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, prohibits “unlawful conversions” from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly on September 13 passed a Bill seeking exemption from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), and making the Class 12 exam marks the basis for medical admissions for undergraduate medical and dental courses. All parties, with the exception of the BJP, supported the new Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021. The statement of objects and reasons in the Bill said that it is being moved as the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test “is not a fair or equitable method of admission, and that it favours the rich and elite sections in society”. The NEET Bill is currently pending the Governor’s approval.
On November 22, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed the Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions (Repeal) Bill, 2021, repealing its earlier laws on the trifurcation of the state’s capital. The trifurcation laws had been severely opposed — by the TDP, as well as by protests by farmers in Amaravati — over the Andhra government’s move to make three cities the state capital. While Visakhapatnam was to be the executive capital, Amaravati would be the legislative capital and Kurnool the judicial capital.
Two days later, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, on November 24, passed the AP Cinemas (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill 2021, to bring in an online movie ticketing system that will be run by the state government. The government said the amendment would help the government regulate cinema ticket pricing and check the exploitation of moviegoers. This Bill introduced an online ticketing system, on the lines of Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC), and the Indian Railways online ticketing system, to keep a check on tax evasions, and enhance the movie theatre experience in the state, the government had said then.
On February 26, 2021, the then AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu brought in the Special Reservation Act of 2021 in the Legislative Assembly. The Bill was passed in the Assembly and received the Governor’s assent on the same day. In July, after the Assembly elections, the DMK-led government passed an order approving the implementation of the 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars in public and private education and in appointment to state government jobs. This law was later challenged in the High Court, which set aside the quota. An appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.
On September 21, the Karnataka Assembly passed the Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill. It was tabled by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai after his government received flak for the demolition of Mysuru’s Nanjangud temple. The temple had been demolished on the basis of the Supreme Court’s orders to demolish several illegal structures, but the move had attracted widespread criticism and this was hurriedly passed in the Assembly. The government said that the Bill was passed as “it is considered necessary to provide for the protection of religious constructions” in a public place, in order to “protect communal harmony and not to hurt the religious sentiments of the public.” The Bill also restricts the construction of unauthorised religious structures and constructions in public places in the future.
On September 22, the Karnataka Assembly passed a Bill to ban online gambling or betting in the state, providing for a maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for any violation. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, which amended the Karnataka Police Act of 1963, states: "games means and includes online games, involving all forms of wagering or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of the money paid before or after the issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance." There currently is an appeal pending in the Karnataka High Court, where the HC has reserved orders on the plea.
Tamil Nadu government September 6, tabled a Bill in the legislative assembly to amend the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, to add a section that would make it mandatory for the shops to provide seating for all the employees. The Act stated that the shops and establishments across the state must have seats for salespersons to prevent them from standing through the day. The Bill stated, "Considering the plight of the employees, the premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work and thereby avoid 'on their toes' situation throughout the working hours."