Complete Coverage: Parliament Budget Session 1st Innings Plays Out With Bouquets And Brickbats
On 2nd March, Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which proposes to increase the time period for termination from 12 to 20 weeks and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to regulate the mining sector in India was introduced in Lok Sabha as the Budget Session 2.0 began.
Rajya Sabha began discussions on the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 and the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019.
On March 3, The Banking Regulation Amendment Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha. The Bill would keep certain types of agricultural credit societies outside the ambit of the 1949 Banking Regulation Act and strengthen cooperative banks. Clause-by-clause voting on the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was taken up in Lok Sabha but the house was adjourned without passage of the bill due to repeated disruptions.
On March 4, the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was passed with amendments in the Budget Session. The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The Standing Committee on Finance presented its report on Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill 2019 in both the houses. It recommended using the process of delegated legislation through the formulation of rules by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India.
3 members expressed their dissent for the provision that homebuyers could initiate insolvency proceedings against builders only if the resolution application is jointly filed by at least 10% of homebuyers on the same project.
On March 5, Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan informed both the houses of the government’s steps for universal screening of all international passengers entering India to tackle the Coronavirus. Many MPs highlighted the issue of fake news being circulated over social media and also overpricing of masks and hand sanitizers.
Under Rule 374, the Lok Sabha suspended 7 Congress MPs for the remaining Budget session for their unruly behaviour and misconduct of snatching papers from the Speaker’s table. The 7 MPs are namely Gaurav Gogoi, T N Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, Manicka Tagore, Rajmohan Unnithan, Benny Behanan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla.
While the BJP welcomed the decision, INC leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleged the government of revenge politics and termed the decision as ‘dictatorial’.
“Our members had done nothing wrong. The decision was motivated by revenge politics and what happened today is a tale of embarrassment in the history of Parliament.” – Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, INC Leader
On March 6, the Lok Sabha passed the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 without any discussion.
The Mineral Laws Bill will remove the restrictions for certain coal mines and will further allow the transfer of statutory clearances from previous lessees to successful bidders for two years. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will allow certain financial creditors to initiate an insolvency process in the event of default.
“This Bill will transform the mining sector in the country by boosting coal production and reducing dependence on imports and in turn also promote Ease of Doing Business.” – Prahlad Joshi, Union Coal & Mines Minister.
On 11th March, Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S.Jaishankar addressed the Rajya Sabha over the growing concerns of 6000 Indians stranded in Iran due to Coronavirus. He also informed that the Cabinet Secretary is following up with all states to set up isolation wards.
The Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla reconsidered the decision of the chair and revoked the suspension of the 7 MPs. As the Lok Sabha took up the discussion of the riots in Delhi, fierce disruption was seen from the opposition. AIMIM MP Owaisi, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya put out strong opposing views. Later Home Minister Amit Shah also replied to the debate by stating the facts and figures of the riot and also promised strict and swift action against those behind the riots.
On March 12, the Rajya Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment Bill), 2020 but without the incorporation of the Standing Committee recommendations and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also passed.
In the second half, the government faced a lot of heat from the opposition in the Rajya sabha over the discussion of Delhi Riots wherein the opposition accused the Home Minister of failing to control the riots and also demanded clarification on CAA-NPR-NRC. Replying to the debate, the Home Minister gave point to point reply informing measures taken by the Delhi Police to investigate the riots and also criticized the Shaheen Bagh protest and clarified that no one’s citizenship would be taken away due to CAA or NPR.
Complete Coverage: Chronology of Delhi Riots
The Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha; this bill would replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 and set up a Board of Major Port Authority for each Major Port in the country. The Demand for Grants by the Ministry of Railways was also discussed in the Lok Sabha which highlighted the declining business of passenger and freight trains due to other modes of transport.
On 15th March, the Lok Sabha passed the Demand for Grants for the Ministry of Railways. The Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was taken up in Rajya Sabha where the MPs expressed their concerns over not addressing the root causes of high pendency of tax disputes. The House passed the motion to return the bill to the Lok Sabha as it can only send recommendations in case of a money bill.
On March 16, the Rajya Sabha gave its assent to the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 which will convert Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha into Central Sanskrit Universities.
The Standing Committee report on the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was tabled in Lok Sabha. It seeks to prohibit unauthorized recording and broadcasting of a film and make provision for a prison term of up to 3 years, or a fine of up to Rs.10 lakh.
The Lok Sabha passed the Demand for Grants of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Ministry of Tourism. The Appropriation Bill, 2020 was introduced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and also subsequently passed.
The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha which seeks to decriminalize technical lapses under the 2013 Companies Act. Some Members opposed the bill and demanded to send it to a Standing Committee. This demand was put down by the Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur stating that the Bill only covered technical and procedural defaults.
The Lok Sabha then took up the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that proposes to recognize the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) as statutory bodies. One of the MPs asked the Civil Aviation Minister to pass the benefit of low rates of crude oil to aircraft operators; to which Minister Hardeep Singh Puri asked for aviation fuel to be brought under the GST regime.
The Rajya Sabha also took up The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 for discussion which aims to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and set up a National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM). The house also discussed The National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2019 which proposes to set up the National Commission for Homoeopathy(NCH).
The Rajya Sabha passed both The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 and The National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2019.
In the Zero Hour of Lok Sabha, an MP raised a demand to expand the list of Scheduled Languages to recognize Rajasthani, Bhoti, and Bhojpuri. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs assured that the government is considering this demand to be added to the 8th Schedule.
On March 19, the Lok Sabha passed the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020 to merge 3 Ayurveda institutes into one which will now be called the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda and will be designated as an institution of National Importance. Rajya Sabha discussed the Working of the Ministry of MSME; Nitin Gadkari, Minister for MSME said, “the sector contributes 29% of the GDP growth and 33% of manufacturing and has created about 11 crore jobs.”
On March 23, The Finance Bill, 2020 was passed in the Lok Sabha and The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 were introduced.
The house also gave an extension for the submission of the Joint Committee Report on The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. In Rajya Sabha, the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 was introduced. Later, the house took up clause by clause consideration of the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bills for 2020. After growing pressure from the opposition to curtail the ongoing Budget Session, both the Houses were adjourned sine die 12 days ahead of schedule due to the growing cases of coronavirus.