The defining image of the Monsoon Session of Parliament was Congress president Rahul Gandhi's act of hugging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and saying he has no 'hatred' against him. However, the session was also remarkable for the fact that it was a significantly productive one, especially compared to the recent past.
According to data from PRS Legislative Research, the productivity of the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session, 2018 was 106 percent, while that of the Rajya Sabha was 67 percent. The last time productivity of either of the Houses of Parliament breached the 100 percent mark was during the Monsoon Session of 2016. (Productivity goes beyond 100 percent when either House of Parliament meets for more than six hours in a day, by working late.)
Key legislations passed/introduced
A number of important legislations were discussed during the Monsoon Session, such as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill. The former seeks to introduce the possibility of the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age. It also stipulates a minimum punishment of 20 years, which may go up to life imprisonment for the crime. People convicted for the gang-rape of a girl below 12 years of age will get life imprisonment or death. The latter Bill seeks to grant National Commission for Backward Classes the constitutional status on a par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
Following the passage of the Bill, Narendra Modi tweeted —
A historic moment for our country!
I am glad that the Parliament has passed the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, which grants Constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.
This will contribute to the empowerment of the OBC communities across India
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 6, 2018
Also, earlier this week, the government introduced four Bills to amend the GST laws in the Lok Sabha which, among other things, seek to simplify the return forms and raise the turnover threshold for availing composition scheme to Rs 1.5 crore. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) amendment Bills are primarily aimed at helping the MSME sector and small traders, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said while introducing the bills in the Lok Sabha.
Another significant legislation introduced in the Lok Sabha was the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018. The Bill seeks to overturn a Supreme Court order that struck down the provision for immediate arrest. The apex court's order had met with vociferous opposition, with Dalit groups having organised a massive Bharat Bandh over the issue in April.
The Centre also reacted to public outrage over PNB scam accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fleeing the country, in the form of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, which got the assent of the president on 5 August. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 25 July and by the Lok Sabha on 19 July.
Questions on mob violence, terrorism
During the Monsoon Session, Union home minister Rajnath Singh responded to criticism of the government over mob lynchings which have taken place in the recent past. In a statement in the Lok Sabha, Singh said that the government will enact a law, if necessary, to curb incidents of lynching. The home ministry announced setting up of two high-level committees to suggest ways and legal framework to effectively deal with incidents of mob violence and lynching. While one committee is headed by Singh, the other panel is headed by Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba.
On a related note, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology also made a statement on action taken by the government to curb fake news. "The government has asked WhatsApp to convey various steps taken by them to deal with fake news and also to share learning material to educate the same," minister of state SS Ahluwalia said.
"The government does not regulate content appearing on the internet. Law enforcement agencies take appropriate action on posting of malicious content on the internet on a specific case-to-case basis," he said in response to a separate query.
The Union home ministry also issued a statement on instances of infiltration of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. There were 133 attempts of infiltration by terrorists from across the border and there were 69 net infiltrations, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said in written reply to a question.
Ahir said till June this year, 14 terrorists were killed while 50 others were returned from the border.
Bills discussed more extensively in Monsoon Session
While the number of hours for which Parliament functioned on an average was a positive indicator, another heartening aspect was the amount of time spent on discussing legislations. According to data from PRS Legislative Research, 20 legislations were discussed in both the Houses during this session. Out of these, four legislations were discussed for five hours or more each, indicating that many proposed laws were discussed in detail, rather than being passed in a hurry.
This is in stark contrast to the Budget Session this year when Parliament spent 17 minutes in all to deliberate on just two legislations — The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The former was passed by the Rajya Sabha after just three minutes of discussion.
The Budget Session of Parliament had been almost washed out due to protests over a number of issues, including the demand for special status for Andhra Pradesh, the Cauvery dispute and the government's stance on the SC/ST Atrocities Act.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Aug 10, 2018 18:13:00 IST