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Parliament showdown: 6 bills that may create a storm this session

Catch Team | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:21 IST

The last session of Parliament was one of the most productive in recent years, in terms of deliberating over, or passing, bills.

But the upcoming session is not likely to get much work done.

With the BJP being hit by one scam after another, the Opposition is likely to go for the government's jugular during the Monsoon Session of Parliament that begins on 21 July.

The BJP is on the back foot on a number of fronts - the Lalit Modi controversy, the Vyapam scam, the rice scam in Chhattisgarh and the Chikki scam in Maharashtra.

In addition to this, the Aam Aadmi Party is threatening to raise the Delhi statehood issue in Parliament and it has already secured the Janata Dal (United)'s support on the matter.

Amidst the storm the Opposition will kick up - many say the House will not be allowed to function - the Narendra Modi government will find it difficult to get any legislation passed this session.

The most crucial among these is the Land Acquisition Bill.

BJP sources suggest that the government is in no position to introduce a legislation perceived as anti-poor, just before the Assembly elections in Bihar.

With its own ally Shiv Sena opposing the Bill and the Joint Parliamentary Committee yet to finish its work, the bill may get put off till the Winter Session.

But the Land Acquisition Bill isn't the only one in jeopardy this session.

The biggest hurdle for the government is the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA doesn't have a majority.

10 Bills are pending in the Upper House:

1. Mental Health Care Bill, 2013

2. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012

3. Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013

4. Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 as passed by Lok Sabha

5. Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2013 (currently with Select Committee)

6. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2015

7. Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill, 2015

8. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014

9. Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2015

10. The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014

Then there are two important Bills pending with Parliamentary committees:

1. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Re-settlement (Second) Bill, 2015

2. The Goods and Services Tax Bill

There are also 7 Bills are in the pipeline which are yet to be introduced in Parliament:

1. Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015 ( To replace an Ordinance),

2. Bureau of Indian Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2015

3. Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015

4. Constitution amendment bills relating to reservation of women in Panchayats and Local Bodies

5. Road Transport & Safety Bill, 2015

6. Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2015

7. Human Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) Profiling Bill, 2015

Here's a detailed look a some of the contentious bills that might come up in Parliament during this session.

01
Goods and Services Tax Bill

The Goods and Services Tax Bill is being presented as the single most important tax reform since Independence. It aims to convert the country into a unified market, replacing most indirect taxes with one unified tax within a dual structure - a Central component levied and collected by the Centre and a state component administered by states.

This will help industry, which will be able to reap benefits of common procedures and claim credit for taxes paid. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley estimates the GST will help increase India's GDP by around 2%.

The GST Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 6 May 2015, receiving 352 votes for and 37 against - all by AIADMK.

The Congress walked out of the House, effectively helping the passage of the Bill, while the BJD and the CPI(M), which had previously opposed the Bill, voted in favour.

In the Upper House, the Opposition repeatedly stalled the proceedings of the House.

In order to appease the Opposition's demand for further scrutiny of the Bill, Jaitley moved a motion to refer it to a Select Committee. The 21-member Committee is expected to give its report by the end of the Monsoon Session.

Who might vote how: For the GST to become a reality, it must be cleared by two-thirds majority by both Houses, and then ratified by 50% of states.

With the Congress adamant on not letting the Bill pass, the situation is likely to hit a stalemate again in the Rajya Sabha. However, if the Congress abstains from voting like it did in the Lok Sabha, it might become easier for BJP.

However, a lot depends on the recommendations of the Standing Committee.

The U-turns: A precursor to the GST was first introduced during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministership in 2000.

The UPA government brought a similar Bill in Lok Sabha in 2011, but failed to get it passed. During that time, most states, including those ruled by BJP opposed the Bill and alleged that it affected their fiscal autonomy. Now it's the Congress' turn to oppose it.

02
Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Bill (2014)

The most controversial provision in the new Bill is that it allows for 16-18 year olds to be tried as adults in case of heinous crimes. A Juvenile Justice Board would assess whether the child was mentally capable of understanding the consequences of the crime before deciding if he or she will be sent for rehabilitation or tried as an adult.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all signatory countries to treat every child under the age of 18 years as equal. The provision of trying a juvenile as an adult contravenes the Convention.

Interesting quote: "After the Nirbhaya gang rape, child protection has eroded. This law says that those above 16 years of age would be tried like adults. In the Child Labour Bill also, classifying children above 14 as 'adolescents' not children, is a move in that direction," explains Sreedhar Mether of Save the Children Foundation.

Who might vote how: Congress feels it is "emotionally, ethically and morally" wrong to punish a child, who does not have access to basic facilities, like an adult. The justice system, according to them, should focus on 'rehabilitation and not retribution'. BJP, in its need to send a stringent message to the country's youth, is all for this amendment.

03
Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011, promises to protect the identity of people who expose irregularities by public functionaries from any victimisation.

The NDA government seeks to amend the Bill supposedly to exclude areas concerned with national security. Activists, however, argue that the amendments give the government huge number of exemptions that may prevent any information from coming out. For instance in certain cases, the Bill makes it mandatory that the information must have been obtained only through a Right to Information query.

[twittable]Land Acquisition Bill may get pushed to the Winter Session. BJP may not want to risk it before the Bihar polls[/twittable]

Who might vote how: The Bill, with the amendments, may not be passed this Session, especially given the ongoing investigation into the Vyapam scam and the suspicious deaths of many whistleblowers and journalists. Activists have also criticised the amendments, saying that they make the law virtually toothless.

04
Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013

The most significant aspect of Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill is that it introduces bribe-giving as an offence. It also proposes ways to attach properties of the accused. It adds the intention to acquire bribes to the definition of criminal misconduct, but fails cover the circumstances in which the bribe was taken. But it does not protect a bribe-giver from giving statements in court, which may discourage them for appearing as witnesses.

The Bill is an amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Changes: This Bill was introduced by the UPA government in 2013, but the NDA has made changes to it that may dilute its impact. The government has taken the stand that the Bill is too stringent and may deter public servants as well as businessmen from doing their jobs.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has stressed on how cases against corporate decision-makers disrupted the business environment. In his opinion, the language of the legislation harps back to the pre-liberalisation era.

Who might vote how: Since the Bill was introduced by the Congress, the party will not let the BJP's dilution of its provisions, go uncontested.

05
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013

The Real Estate Bill aims to set up Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) to regulate transactions between real estate buyers and promoters of projects. It seeks to provide recourse to harried home buyers. It also aims at resolving issues such as project delays, lack of an appellate body, and the widespread use of black money in real estate transactions.

Who might vote how: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had agitated against the Bill, which he believes would favour the builder over the buyer. Congress leader Ajay Maken stated that the new bill provides an 'escape clause' for delayed projects, which does not penalise delays in construction

The Congress is likely to take the BJP to task on these provisions.

06
Creation of Compensatory Afforestation Funds, 2015

The Bill essentially seeks to establish funds at the national and state level to receive money collected for 'compensatory' afforestation.

Compensatory afforestation is defined as afforestation done in lieu of the diversion of forest land for 'non forest' use under the Forests (Conservation) Act, 1980.

The money in the State Fund will be used for site-specific schemes implemented by the state, artificial regeneration of forests, forest management and wildlife protection as well as protection and conservation activities in protected areas.

Who might vote how: With Opposition not voicing their dissent yet on the Bill, it is likely to be passed this session.

Basic question: The definition of 'forests' has been disputed, since the community-owned forests of the North East, have never been surveyed.

First published: 21 July 2015, 12:16 IST
 
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