Bills in jeopardy as Parliament faces forced interruptions
Several Bills have been hanging for a long time as the opposition has either put its foot down and forced that these be sent to select committees or due to adjournments.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018- popularly known as the Triple Talaq Bill- in the Lok Sabha on Thursday to replace the Ordinance on the issue. But the Opposition insisted that it be taken up on December 27 when the House meets after the Christmas holidays.
Though the Bill is not likely to be passed, a fresh debate on the issue gives the government as well as the Opposition to make political capital on the sensitive instant talaq matter. Despite so many delays and the promulgation of Ordinance, the government has refused to send the Bill to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha on previous occasions ostensibly as it does not want the opposition to share the credit. The Bill is directed at protecting the rights of Muslim women but many also see this as an attempt by the BJP to interfere in the affairs of the minority community. BJP members also maintain that the Bill forces Congress to take a categorical stand on the issue and thus make a choice between their commitment to the rights of Muslim women and vote bank politics.
The Bill on making changes in the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to make use of Aadhaar voluntary is also on the government agenda. The Union cabinet has cleared the Bill and the government wants to pass it in this session but the possibilities are dim due to disruptions in both Houses. Though the government has decided not to make it a money Bill, the opposition plans to send most Bills in Rajya Sabha to a select committee and this may hamper its passage in this session.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has been passed by the Lok Sabha but with seven major and 20 minor amendments, it will have to be sent to the Rajya Sabha again for passage. Brought first as a private members’ Bill by DMK member Tiruchi Siva in the Rajya Sabha, it was introduced later as a government Bill. Often labelled a party having regressive ideas, BJP senses an opening here of coming out as one committed to social justice.
The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 is caught in the cross hairs of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the Cauvery issue. With BJP trying to make inroads into TN politics, it will have to tread carefully keeping the sentiments of both states in mind. BJP’s stakes are higher in Karnataka.
Several Bills have been hanging for a long time as the opposition has either put its foot down and forced that these be sent to select committees—even after a standing committee of both Houses have examined it—of the Rajya Sabha or due to adjournments.
The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018 will be brought by the government in this session to replace an Ordinance promulgated in September. The Ordinance has constituted a Board of Governors to replace the council comprising of eminent doctors. The Board will be in place for a period of one year and has been constituted to “bring transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education in India”. The Bill has been pending in Parliament for months.
Opposition majority in the Rajya Sabha often forces the government on the backfoot. The Upper House has also seen more adjournments, disruptions and stalling of Bills. The Opposition has justified this on the ground that it acts as a check on the arbitrariness of a government enjoying a brute majority in the Lok Sabha. The Modi government had drawn a lot of flak for bringing some legislations- the most significant being the Aadhar Bill- as money Bills to surpass the opposition.
Some of the important Bill that have been pending in Rajya Sabha for long are: The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018; The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
The government got the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 passed in the LS on Thursday. It will now be sent to the Upper House for approval of the amendments. Incidentally, it removes the clause that made a celebrity endorsing a product making false claims liable for imprisonment. This has been replaced with a monetary fine.
An interesting Bill that the Narendra Modi government intends to introduce in this session of Parliament is The Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which seeks to address the issue of internet games like Blue Whale that affected school children. It will also check internet content that the government claims “militate against the cultural ethos of the country which we have valued and preserved for centuries”. The literature and videos that children and youth are exposed to and which are “repugnant to our cultural values and tend to undermine them” will be dealt with in this Bill.
Government had listed 45 Bills and the second batch of supplementary demands for grants in its list of business for the winter session. With only about seven working days left, the prospects of this being a fruitful session are dim.