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Union Cabinet to meet today, proxy voting for NRIs, more freedom to NIA up for discussion


Days ahead for the Union Budget to be tabled, a meeting of the Union Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is scheduled to be conducted in Parliament Annexe New Building on Monday. The meeting will be chaired by PM Narendra Modi.

The meeting is stated to be serious, after economists and top industry experts met PM Modi on Saturday and gave their suggestions for the revival of the agrarian sector of the country.

The meeting on Monday has many agendas lined up for discussion.

The Union Cabinet is expected to take a call on amending the NIA Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Seeking to give more teeth to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the government plans to amend two laws to allow it to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad.

The amendment bill could be introduced in Parliament this week during the ongoing Monsoon session. The amendments will also allow the NIA probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking, sources aware of the proposal said Sunday.

Amendment to Schedule 4 of the UAPA will allow the NIA to designate an individual suspected to have terror links as a terrorist. As of now, only organisations are designated as ‘terrorist organisations’.

The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed 166 lives.

The Union Cabinet will also take a call to introduce a fresh bill in Parliament to extend the facility of proxy voting to overseas Indians.

A similar bill had lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month. Sources in the government said on Sunday that the Union Cabinet will consider introducing the bill in Parliament.

The bill proposes that overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, can appoint a proxy voter to cast the ballot on their behalf.

As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which is as of now available to service personnel only.

According to estimates of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 3.10 crore NRIs living in different countries across the world.

Another provision in the amendment bill relates to the spouses of service voters. As of now, an armyman’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.

The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender-neutral.

Also, the DNA Technology Regulation Bill, which seeks to control the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of a person, is likely to come up before the Union Cabinet on Monday.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in January, but lapsed as it could not be cleared in the Rajya Sabha due to lack of support from the opposition.

Following the clearance from the Cabinet, the bill is likely to be reintroduced in Parliament for passage. The legislation seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks.

The bill envisages that every data bank will maintain indices like the crime scene index, suspects’ or undertrials’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.

The legislation also seeks to establish a DNA Regulatory Board. Every laboratory that analyses DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual, has to be accredited by the board.

Under the bill, a written consent by individuals is required to collect DNA samples from them. Consent is not required for offences with punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.

It also provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on filing of a police report or court order, and of undertrials on the basis of a court order. Profiles in the crime scene and missing persons’ index will be removed on a written request.

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