The Budget session begins on Tuesday (23 February) in an atmosphere of intimidation and hate, with the JNU imbroglio and Rohith Vemula's suicide casting doubt whether any meaningful businesses are possible in this crucial session too.
The earlier two sessions had gone without any meaningful businesses being taken up as the Opposition vehemently disrupted the House raising issues including the rising intolerance. The situation is not different even now.
In his customary address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday strongly criticised disruption and obstruction of Praliament. He called upon all MPs to discharge their responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation.
"Our Parliament reflects the supreme will of the people. Democratic temper calls for debate and discussion, and not disruption of obstruction.
"My government will constantly strive for smooth and constructive conduct of Parliamentary business. I urge all Members of Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation. Let us all collectively endeavour to build a flourishing and prosperous India," he said.
However, it remains to be seen whether the Houses will be able to discharge any of their responsibilities.
According to PRS Legislative, there are 31 sittings, with the session divided into two parts with a recess from 17 March to 24 April.
The session crucial for there is a biting global slowdown that is crippling the demand condition, while the domestic consumption is also not picking up as expected. A slowdown in legislative business will only hamper the wobbly recovery in the economy presently visible.
PRS Legislative reckons that there are 12 bills to be considered and passed, 4 bills, including the Finance Bill, listed to be introduced, considered and passed, 2 new bills to be introduced and other 2 to be withdrawn.
Here's all you need to know about the key bills to be taken up by Parliament sourced from PRS Legislative:
The Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014:
The bill pertains to long-pending Goods and Services Tax. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and is now stuck in Rajya Sabha. The Congress has demanded that the rate of 17-18 percent GST rate recommended by the expert panel, has to be included in the constitution, which is not acceptable to the government. The GST is aimed at reforming and streamlining tax system. It envisages the country as a single market and absolves various taxes into one. Economists have said the GST will help lift the GDP growth by about 2 percent in the long run.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013:
This regulates transactions between buyers and promoters of real estate projects and sets up state-level regulatory authorities to oversee the sector. Once in place, it is expected to boost consumer confidence as it is expected to ring in transparency in the sector. At present, a slowing down home sales is taking a toll on the economic revival. According to consultancy firm Knight Frank, home sales have declined 4 percent in 2015, with an unsold inventory of about 7 lakh units. The Rajya Sabha Select Committee Report was submitted on 30 July 2015.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas and other related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014:
The bill modifies the composition of the Selection Committee to include the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, and the manner of declaration of assets of public servants. As per the existing Act the Leader of the Opposition is included in the panel. The Bill warrants an amendment as there is no leader of opposition in the current House. The amendment will pave the way for senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to be its member. The standing committee report was submitted on 7 December 2015.
The Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014:
This bill replaces the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982. It defines hijacking and awards death penalty for hijacking in cases where the offence results in death of hostage or security personnel. In all other cases, the accused will be accorded life imprisonment and moveable and immoveable property may be confiscated. Hijacking has been defined as "seizing control of an aircraft in service, unlawfully and intentionally, by technological means or by exercising force, coercion, or any other form of intimidation". The Standing Committee Report was to be submitted on 11 March 2015.
The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015:
The Bill seeks to dilute the The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2014, which has already got President's approval. According to this article in the Indian Express, the proposed changes will remove some of safeguards the original bill accorded to whistle blowers from the Official Secrets Act. PRS notes that the Bill prohibits reporting of corruption if it falls under any 10 categories of information such as (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc. The amendments have been passed by Lok Sabha and is pending in Rajya Sabha. The government needs to speed up operationalising the bill if it is indeed serious about ending corruption.
The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2015:
The bill seeks to ensure uniformity in pensions and other conditions of service of Supreme Court and High Court judges. The bill has been passed by Lok Sabha and is pending in Rajya Sabha.
The Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill, 2015:
The bill seeks to repeal 295 Acts which have ceased to be in force, and amends two Acts. PRS notes that the repealed onces include over 20 Acts that were passed prior to 1947. "Further around 200 laws are amending Acts, where the changes made by these laws have already been incorporated into the relevant principal Acts," says PRS.
The Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill, 2015:
This bill seeks to repeal 758 Appropriation Acts. "The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that these laws have ceased to be in force after one year of their enactment, and are hence obsolete. The Bill seeks to repeal 758 Appropriation Acts, including Appropriation Acts for the railways, passed during the period of 1950-2012. Of the 758 acts, 111 state appropriation acts enacted by Parliament during 1950 to 1976 are to be repealed," says PRS. The bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The Industries (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015:
This Bill seeks to amend the 1951 Act which supports development and regulation of select industries such as metallurgical, telecommunications, transportation, fermentation (which includes production of alcohol) among others. This amendment clears a long standing confusion about the jurisdiction of the Centre and states on potable and industrial alcohol. The amendment is aimed at conforming to a Supreme Court order issued in 1997, which clearly vested the authority to regulate production of alcohol for industrial purposes with the Centre and that for potable use with state governments. The amendment will exclude production of alcohol for potable purposes from the ambit of the Act. The bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015:
This bill replaces the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986. It seeks to establish BIS as the national standards body and addresses mandatory standardisation of products. The Bill also proposes to introduce mandatory hallmarking of precious metal, prevent misuse of Standard marks and provide for recall of ISI marked products not conforming to relevant standards. Once the Bill is approved by Parliament, the BIS would get the legislative backing to formally represent India abroad. At present, the BIS is not formally recognised as a national standards body of the country, though it has been representing India in various international bodies. The bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha but pending in the Lok Sabha.
The National Waterways Bill, 2015:
The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha, provides for declaring certain inland waterways as national waterways. It identifies additional 101 waterways as national waterways and repeals five Acts that govern the existing national waterways. Once the Bill gets operationalised, India will have 111 waterways in total. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill notes that though inland waterways are fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport it has received lesser investment compared with roads and railways. The Bill is aimed at evolving a policy for integrated development of inland waterways. "It will help, trade, industry, farmers, fishermen," transport minister Nitin Gadkari had said introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill, 2015:
The bill introduced by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju would enable the government to revise the liability limits of air carriers in line with the Montreal Convention, which was acceded to by India in May 2009. As per the revised compensation package, the bill intends to review the liability limit for damage in case of death or bodily injury for each person from 1,00,000 SDR (special drawing rights) to 1,13,100 SDR. As per the Bill, the liability for delay in carriage for each person is proposed to be raised from 4,150 SDR to 4,694 SDR, while the liability in case of destruction, loss, damage or delay of baggage is proposed to be raised from 1,000 SDR to 1,131 SDR. The liability in case of destruction, loss or delay in relation to the carriage of cargo has been raised from 17 SDR to 19 SDR. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Apart from these, the bills that to be introduced, considered and passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016; The Finance Bill, 2016; The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016; and The Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill, 2016.
The two bills listed for introduction are the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and The Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2016.
The two bills listed for withdrawal are The Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014, and The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
With inputs from agencies