New Delhi: In what could bring smiles to the fair sex, the ruling dispensation on Thursday stamped its approval on the proposal for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats from the present 33 per cent to 50 per cent with the provision being applicable to all seats filled through direct election, office of chairpersons and of offices reserved for SC/ST.

The Amendment Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on November 26, 2009, will incorporate one change suggested by the Standing Committee on Rural Development that the word "rural" be added before the word "population" wherever it occurs in the draft legislation.

The intention behind adding "rural" before "population" is to reflect appropriate demographic representation of categories of population for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for whom reservation is made.

The provision of reserving half the seats for women in Panchayats will apply to the total number of seats filled by direct election, offices of chairpersons and seats and offices of chairpersons reserved for SCs and STs.

"Enhancement of reservation for women in Panchayats will facilitate more women to enter the public sphere and this will lead to further empowerment of women and also make Panchayats more inclusive institutions, thereby improving governance and public service delivery," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.

Bihar and some states have already made suitable amendments to increase reservation for women in Panchayats from 33 to 50 per cent.

New Act for benami transactions

Facing heat over the black money issue from various quarters, the Central government approved a proposal to bring a new legislation for stricter control over benami transactions.  The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The new Bill contains elaborate provisions dealing with the definition of benami transaction and benami property, prohibited benami transactions, consequences of entering into a prohibited benami transaction and the procedure for implementing the benami law," Soni said.

Under the proposed new law, anyone violating the rule can be jailed for not less than six months, which may be extended to two years and also be liable to a fine.

"Properties held by coparcener in a Hindu undivided family and property held by a person in fiduciary capacity are excluded from the definition of benami transaction", she said.

Intl pact on air pollution from ships

The government gave its nod for accepting international regulations for the prevention of air pollution emanating from ships, as proposed under a 1997 protocol of the International Maritime Organisation.

"The Cabinet gave its approval for accession to the 1997 Protocol adding Annex VI (Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution) to the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973/78 (MARPOL 73/78) of the International Maritime Organisation," an official statement said.

According to the regulations, limits have been set on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances have been prohibited.

Moreover, annex-VI includes a global cap of 4.5% m/m on the sulphur content of fuel oil and calls on the IMO to monitor the worldwide average sulphur content of fuel, the statement further said.

Law for recovery of customs duty

Seeking to recover taxes worth thousands of crores of rupees, Government on Thursday approved a bill for introduction in Parliament to get the Customs show cause notices revalidated, after they were held invalid by Supreme Court on "technical grounds".

The Union Cabinet cleared a bill to amend the Customs Act, 1962 to get specified customs officers recognised for assessment of import duty.

Such a recognition to these customs officials would be from retrospective effect.

As a consequence of the amendment bill, to be introduced in the ensuing session of Parliament next month, government would be able to recover customs duty worth several thousands of crores, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said after a Cabinet meeting.

"Officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) will alone have issued notices involving customs duty to the tune of over Rs 7,500 crore...Also tax evaders will not get benefited at the expense of exchequer on a mere technical ground," she said.

A large number of show cause notices were held invalid by the Supreme Court on the ground that they were not issued by 'proper officers'.

The proposed amendment...would safeguard government revenue involved in the show cause notices issued by different tax authorities, including Commissionerates of Customs, DRI, Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence and Central Excise Commissionerates, the minister said.

JPN/ Agencies