The first part of the Budget Session of the Parliament comes to an end on Wednesday and it will be an understatement to say that the Budget Session was stormy.
Scores of issues, starting from the JNU sedition debate, Rohith Vemula's suicide, allegations against Karti P Chidambaram, Ishrat Jahan issue or Ghulam Nabi Azad's statement about the RSS, were behind the regular uproars in both the Houses of Parliament. MPs from both, the Opposition and the ruling party, made sure that the Parliament remains stalled.
Here are some of the key issues and events which were discussed in the Parliament during the Budget Session:
The debate over whether this crucial bill sees the light of the day was probably the most debated during the Budget Session. As Firstpost has earlier argued Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party needs this bill passed but the Opposition is sticking to its guns that the ruling party will violate scores of privacy laws by the passage of this bill.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said that the Aadhaar Bill passed by the Lok Sabha last week has laid down strict measures to protect the privacy of citizens. "Privacy not an absolute right, it is subject to a restriction that it can be restricted by a procedure established by law. Present law is completely different. It borrows UPA's idea (UID), but the privacy law is much more tightened. The only question is, can national security be the ground for sharing information? The answer is yes," said Arun Jaitley and cited US judgments while debating Aadhaar Bill in Rajya Sabha.
The Opposition, bristling since the proposal was controversially passed in the Lok Sabha last week, questioned the government's right to push the bill.
"I am questioning the competence of this house to legislate the bill," said Left leader Sitaram Yechury, arguing that the Aadhaar Bill was also being considered by the Supreme Court and is beyond "the legislative authority" of the house.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley replied: "This is an unprecedented argument in a democracy which has the separation of powers. Court only has power of judicial review."
Last Friday, the BJP-led government used its majority in the Lok Sabha to pass the Aadhaar Bill as a "money bill", which means the Rajya Sabha - where the government is in a minority - cannot make changes to it. Also, changes recommended by the Rajya Sabha can be rejected by the Lok Sabha.
The bill intends to give legal teeth to the government in providing services to those residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar. It will be given to every person who has stayed in India for 182 days in the one year preceding the date of application.
Among the other features of the bill, it calls for the government to ask a person to apply for one if he does not have an Aadhaar number, while providing an alternative means of identification. The card can be used as proof of identity, for not as a proof of citizenship or domicile.
Jaitley said the Aadhaar number will not be misused since the overseeing authority can respond to an authentication query only with a positive, negative or other appropriate response. He said it is not permitted to share the biometric attributes. These include finger prints and iris scans.
The details can be shared only under two circumstances: National security and court order.
The bill also calls for an imprisonment of up to three years and the minimum fine of Rs 10 lakh on a person for extending unauthorised access to the centralised data-base -- or for revealing any information stored in it.
"The previous UPA government had also brought a legislation on Aadhaar. In that bill, the purpose of the personal data and biometrics information collected through the exercise was not defined,” Jaitley said while introducing the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
"Compared to the UPA bill, the proposed law lays down a very strict procedure, the privacy law is much more tightened," he said.
The JNU row and Rohith Vemula's suicide
Perhaps the most aggressive rows to hit the Parliament were those over the issues of sedition charges being filed against some JNU students for allegedly shouting anti-national slogans and the allegation of the government putting pressure on Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula, that ultimately drove him to suicide.
Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani was in the eye of the storm as Opposition leaders like Mayawati, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury severely criticised her and the government for the events that had taken place in JNU and Hyderabad.
Some of the most dramatic scenes in the Parliament took place over this issue, with Irani emotionally promising to decapitate herself in front of Mayawati if she was not satisfied with her answer. Mayawati later even reminded Irani of this promise in the Parliament, saying she was not satisfied with her answer.
The Union Budget 2016
The Budget for 2016-17, presented on 29 February by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, offered sops for small and marginal income tax payers, hiked the surcharge by three percent on earnings above Rs one crore, levied a pollution cess on petrol, diesel cars and SUVs and offered a one-time compliance window for domestic black money holders slapping a tax and penalty of 45 percent.
Moreover, Jaitley had in his Budget for 2016-17 proposed taxing 60 percent of withdrawals from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) on contributions to be made after 1 April, unless the sum was reinvested in pension product such as an annuity. This proposal was, however, later withdrawn due to protests against it.
Jaitley had also proposed a 'Krishi Kalyan' cess of 0.5 percent on all taxable services to improve agriculture and reduction of duties on project imports for cold room for cold chain, refrigerated containers and a number of other items.
The Railway Budget 2016
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had desisted from raising fares and freight rates in his second budget but promised to cut cost and exploit new sources of revenue beyond tariff as he announced three new superfast trains and completion of three freight corridors by 2019.
Presenting the Railway Budget for 2016-17 in Parliament, he had said the guiding principles to keep the modernisation of world's fourth-largest network on track are new sources of revenue, expenditure optimisation and new operating structure.
Real Estate Bill passed
In the Budget Session, the Parliament gave its nod to a bill which gives relief to home-buyers and proposes imprisonment of up to three years besides monetary penalties for any violation of rules.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, approved by Lok Sabha five days after its passage by Rajya Sabha, is designed to protect consumer interest, ensure efficiency in all property-related transactions, improve accountability of developers, boost transparency and attract more investments to the sector, the government said.
Rahul Gandhi's 'fair and lovely yojana scheme' speech
One of the most acerbic speeches made in the Parliament, to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself chose to reply, was Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's now famous 'fair and lovely yojana scheme' speech.
"They launched a Fair and Lovely Yojana to convert black money to white money. Modi ji had promised that he will put people with black money behind bars, now they have come up with ways to save those people," Rahul had said.
"Modi ji promised employment to the youth before the polls. Now the lion (Make in India logo) appears everywhere. But tell us now how many jobs you have generated?" Rahul had asked the prime minister in Lok Sabha. "You created this Make In India babbar sher. Where ever you see, you see the lion. Even on TV we can see the lion," Rahul had said in the Lower House.
Charges against Karti Chidambaram
AIADMK members had created a ruckus in the Lok Sabha demanding action against former Union Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti on the Aircel-Maxis issue.
AIADMK members were earlier raising slogans like 'NDA sarkar take action' and displaying copies of a newspaper which has claimed that Karti has invested in real estate in various countries, as per investigations by Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities during searches at his premises.
Ishrat Jahan case
After allegations were made against the previous UPA government and former Home Minister P Chidambaram over the second affidavit filed in the controversial Ishrat Jahan case, the issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke on the issue. "The effect of terrorism is not just limited to India but also the world. Politics should not be played over the issue," he had said.
"There should not be any flip-flop over the Ishrat Jahan case. The previous government has engaged in flip-flop over the issue," he had said, after which Opposition members created an uproar in the Lok Sabha.
Row over World Culture Festival
The row over Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival was brought up by the Opposition in the Parliament. The Government had defended the event and said that the Opposition should not politicise the event unecessarily. Jairam Ramesh had brought up ecological destruction.
JDU had questioned as to how Sri Sri was refusing to pay the fine and if he was above the law. Opposition had cornered the government and alleged that the Sri Sri event is paralysing New Delhi.
Row over Vijay Mallya
As the Opposition alleged that Vijay Mallya could not have escaped without the government's help, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, "The Opposition has raised pertinent questions. CBI is investigating the matter. Through restructuring, he was given more benefits. If you go through the dates, it tells its own story. Justice will be served."
"If they allow us to react (on Vijay Mallya issue), we will. But I doubt they will allow. Government does not allow us to speak. PM does not like to discuss these issues," Rahul Gandhi had said.
Ghulam Nabi Azad's remark on RSS
After uproar erupted in the Parliament over Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad's remark in which he allegedly compared RSS to terrorist group Islamic State, Azad had told the Rajya Sabha, "For the BJP everyone except the BJP and the RSS are terrorists."
Row over bribery involving TMC MPs
A video was released on Monday showing 11 members of the Trinamool Congress accepting bribes. The sting operation had caused a bigger stir.
The issue also rocked the Parliament as CPM demanded a probe into the alleged sting showing TMC leaders accepting cash for favours.
Ram Shankar Katheria's remark on VHP leader's death
Merely a day after the Budget was presented, Parliament saw stormy scenes and vociferous agitations as the Opposition confronted the government on the issue of Minister of State in the HRD Ministry Ram Shankar Katheria's remark following a VHP leader's murder in Agra.
At a meeting attended by Katheria, several speakers had allegedly made violent and inflammatory references to the Muslim community. Katheria was reported to have urged Hindus to 'make ourselves powerful' and to 'launch a struggle.'
Reacting to Katheria's remarks, Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that BJP and RSS had plans to divide the country.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Mar 16, 2016 16:07 IST