It’s been a poor showing by Parliament—only 15 out of 86 Bills were passed during the Budget session. Sebastian PT spoke to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to find out why.
The Budget session saw only 15 out of 86 Bills, including 49 pending from before, passed in both Houses. Why the poor strike rate?
The situation is not as grim as the numbers would have you believe. Most of the Bills go to Standing Committees (since 1992) after being introduced in a House of Parliament. This is a good system as the panel consults many experts and organisations and holds detailed discussions before submitting its report. Ideally, the government would want all Bills with the Committees returned within two months and passed soon after.
There are various reasons for the delay. For instance, a Standing Committee may have to attend to many Bills at the same time. So, submitting reports could take some time. Also, the panel members are Members of Parliament (MPs) who have to attend to their constituencies as well.
Invariably, the Bills are passed. Quality of discussion in the House, though, is another thing.
Why not have more Parliamentary days to complete more legislative work?
It is difficult to have more than 80 sittings annually. Apart from the weekends, there are about 25 gazetted holidays. And, though law-making is very important, the MPs also can’t ignore their voters’ expectations on local issues. It may be noted that there are many discussions and debates within the Standing Committees themselves, and it is part of the law-making process. If their meetings are considered, then the average would easily go up to over 100 days.
Will critical legislation, such as the Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation and Civil Nuclear Liability Bills, be introduced in the Monsoon Session?
A clear picture on the Bills to be introduced in the Monsoon Session will emerge after my meeting with secretaries of various ministries. There were some issues related to the Land Acquisition Bill, which the ministry concerned is possibly looking into.
The Nuclear Liability Bill and the Seeds Bill are likely to be tabled this session. Recent ordinances will be taken up, such as the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Bill, which seeks to settle the dispute between the Securities and Exchange Board of India and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority over unit-linked insurance plans.
What is the status of the Companies Bill?
The Companies Bill is, at present, with the Standing Committee.
There is speculation that the Bills on Food Security and the Direct Tax Code could be introduced in the Monsoon Session...
The Bill on Food Security is in the drafting stage. Both these Bills are yet to be taken up by the Cabinet, and I will be in a position to comment on these only after that.
The Opposition, apparently, is gearing up for a stormy Monsoon Session on issues like price rise, Bhopal gas compensation, Naxalism, J&K unrest...
The government is ready to discuss any issue under the rules. I hope the Opposition cooperates in utilising Parliament time for this.