Insurance bill may return in Lok Sabha avatar, Oppn apprehensive

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2015 02:18 IST

The government could push a fresh bill to amend the Insurance Act and replace a related ordinance after withdrawing the previous proposed legislation from the Rajya Sabha where the NDA doesn’t enjoy a majority.

The proposal mooted by the law ministry at a high-level meeting on Monday faced questions from other ministries following suggestions to move only a few amendments to the pending insurance bill.

The Opposition, too, sounded apprehensive about a fresh bill. “The Narendra Modi government is resorting to sheer manipulation. This appears to be a ploy to take the pending bill out of the Rajya Sabha and use their tyranny of majority in the Lok Sabha,” said CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

“If the government moves a new bill, it has to be sent to the standing committee for fresh review.” The government needs the Opposition’s support because the NDA has only 64 MPs in the 243-member Upper House, unlike the Lok Sabha where it has a brute majority.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said he was sceptical about the government’s move.

“This is a serious issue. It involves the authority of the House.” The Opposition has earlier preferred a status quo: neither defeating the insurance bill on the floor of the Upper House nor allowing the government to withdraw it.

“The government can move necessary amendments to the existing bill. But finally, it is for the government to decide which route to follow … amendments or a redrafted new bill,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishwanathan. Sources said the law ministry cited precedents during the previous UPA rule, including the anti-rape law, to move a new bill. It also proposed a similar route to replace other five ordinances promulgated by the Modi government last month.

The Opposition is opposed to the coal block allotment ordinance that was re-promulgated.

But if the government manages to pass the bill in one House, it eases the path for a joint session of Parliament to pass amendments to the Insurance Act which will allow 49% foreign investment and trigger other reforms. The government took the ordinance route to enact the law after it failed to pass the bill in the winter session.

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