Story Of The Week

Parliament’s Winter Session 2015: What to Expect

As the winter session of parliament has already begun, all the eyes are on government on how it moves forward to get all the halted reforms cleared, in order to ensure that the economy is well on track. With the monsoon session turning out to be a complete washout, pressure is mounting on the government to ensure a productive winter session. The legislative agenda of winter session constitutes of 19 bills pending in parliament of which 8 bills are pending in Lok Sabha and 11 bills are pending in Rajha Sabha. 14 new bills will be introduced in the parliament, out of which one will be taken up for consideration and passing.

 

Highlights of Monsoon Session 2015: Plan vs. Performance

The monsoon session of parliament was rather unproductive with the opposition stalling the parliament sine dine on August 13, 2015. Congress’s adamant demand for resignation of Sushma Swaraj and Vasundra Raje over the Lalit gate issue, Vyapam scam and allegations on Smiriti Irani for indulging in malpractice regarding educational certificate led to complete disruption of the entire monsoon session. Below are the details for the Monsoon session of parliament.

 

AGENDA PLANNED ACTUAL
No. of Sittings (Lok Sabha) 18 17
No. of Sittings (Rajya Sabha) 18 17
No. of Bills for passing    
  -Finance and Appropriation Bills 0 2
  -Other Bills 12 1
No. of Bills for introduction    
  -Finance and Appropriation Bills 0 2
  -Other Bills 9 8
No. of Bills for withdrawal 3 4

 

 

Productive hours Lok  Sabha

Figure 1: Productive Hours in Lok Sabha (Monsoon Session 2015)

 

 

Productive houre_Rajya Sabha

Figure 2:Productive hours in Rajya Sabha (Monsoon Session 2015)

 

 

The Winter Session 2015:

The Union Minister for parliamentary affairs M Venkaiah Naidu has revealed that 38 items will be discussed during the winter session, 22 of which have been given priority. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will meet for the Winter Session between November 26th and December 23rd, 2015. Parliament will be holding a special sitting on November 26 and 27, remembering Dr BR Ambedkar and other founding fathers of the Constitution and as a mark of respect to them, holding a discussion on the Constitution.

In this article we highlight the 10 key bills that need to cleared in the winter session

  1. The Constitution (122nd Amendment) GST Bill, 2015: The GST will create a harmonious system of taxation by subsuming all the indirect taxes under it thus resulting in reduction of price of goods. It will eliminate the cascading effect of taxes thereby reducing the interstate variations in tax.

Key issues of GST bill include:

  • The provisions of this Bill do not fully conform to an ideal GST regime
  • Deferring the levy of GST on five petroleum products could lead to cascading of taxes
  • Additional 1% tax on goods transported among states will dilute the objective of creating a harmonized national market for goods and services
  • The Bill permits the center to levy and collect GST in the course of inter-state trade and commerce
  • Inter-state trade of a good would be more expensive than intra-state trade, with the burden being borne by retail consumers

2. The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015: The Bill will replace the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 which was promulgated on June 15, 2015. The Amendment seeks to specify the jurisdiction of courts for filing the cases of cheque bouncing. The Act defines promissory notes, cheques and specifies penalties for bouncing of cheques, and other violations.

3. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015: The Bill permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences.  Also, any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser, i.e., serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years. This particular clause was met with opposition from the Parliamentary Standing Committee, whose report shows that according NCRB records, there is no surge in crimes by juveniles to warrant such a drastic legislation.

4. The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015: The Vyapam expose and its resultant fallout has necessitated a more potent law to protect whistle blowers.  However, contrary to this objective, the Centre seeks to pass an amendment further diluting the existing law. The amendment proposes to add ten categories under which information may not be disclosed by the whistle blower. The bill is passed by the Lok Sabha and is pending before the Rajya Sabha. The amendments to the bill will incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country and security of the state, among other things.

5. Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013: In tune with the Center’s anti-corruption line, this amendment seeks to impose more stringent penalties on corrupt government officials. The minimum sentence is proposed to be increased from 6 months to 3 years, and the maximum sentence from 5 to 7 years. The bill will also be a relief to corporate chiefs as they will be liable only if the offence “is proved to have been committed with consent or connivance” of the executive in question.

6. High Court and Supreme Court Judges Amendment Bill, 2015: The most important change this amendment seeks to bring in is the addition of 10 years of bar practice to the qualifying service of High Court judges, for the purposes of calculating pension. The Bill also provides for a revamp of leave allowances for Supreme Court and High Court judges. For the Chief Justice of India, it will be 50% of his monthly salary rate; for other judges of the apex court, it will be 55%. The Chief Justice of a High Court will also get 55% of his salary as leave allowance, whereas other High Court judges will get 60%.

7. The Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015: This will replace the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Ordinance. It enables the creation of commercial divisions and commercial appellate divisions in high courts, and commercial courts at the district level.

8. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013: Another important and much awaited bill. It regulates transactions between buyers and promoters of real estate projects and sets up state level regulatory authorities for the sector called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs). The Standing Committee report was submitted on 13 February 2014 and the Rajya Sabha Select Committee report on 30 July 2015.

9. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012: The Act prohibits employment of children below 14 years in certain occupations such as automobile workshops, bidi-making, carpet weaving, handloom and power loom industry, mines and domestic work.  In light of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the Bill seeks to prohibit employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except where the child helps his family after school hours.

10. The Anti-Hijacking Bill 2014: This bill repeals the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, defines hijacking and awards death penalty for hijacking in certain cases. The Standing Committee report was submitted on 11 March 2015. The Bill includes several acts within the definition of hijacking including:

  • Attempt and abetment of hijacking
  • Making a credible threat to commit hijacking
  • Organizing or directing others to commit hijacking
  • Agreeing with another to commit the offence, and acting on the agreement

 

The Way Forward

With pressure mounting on government to clear the GST and Real estate bills to push the much awaited reforms, collaboration with the opposition holds paramount importance to ensure smooth execution of the winter session.  The government has set its priorities right and is ready to walk the extra mile to iron out the differences with the opposition which was evident from the fact that for the first time in his 18 months tenure Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited senior congress officials to discuss the GST bill. The government hopes to find common ground on GST and other key bills with congress, as the market analysts and Investors are holding high hopes with the outcome of the winter session of parliament.

References:

  1. http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1448381582_Parliament%20Session%20Alert%20Winter%202015%20Nov%2024.pdf
  2. http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1439462923~~Plan%20vs%20Performance-Monsoon%202015.pdf
  3. http://barandbench.com/parliaments-winter-session-2015-10-bills-to-keep-an-eye-on/
  4. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-key-bills-listed-to-be-taken-up-in-the-winter-session-of-parliament-2521940.html
  5. http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/winter-session-the-business-of-parliament/
  6. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-11-22/news/68484269_1_key-bills-winter-session-parliament-winter
  7. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/monsoon-session-of-parliament-session-not-prorogued-government-options-open-on-gst-bill/article7535588.ece
  8. http://www.prsindia.org/downloads/bills-pending-in-parliament/
  9. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/monsoon-session-of-parliament/liveblog/48461764.cms
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