4 bills sent to Parliament panels, winter session set to end today
The Narendra Modi government referred four out of six contentious bills to parliamentary panels, stalled one but passed another quickly in the politically-charged winter session that saw major protests, limited debates and a prolonged stand-off between the government and the Opposition.
The winter session of Parliament that started on November 29, is set to end on Wednesday after completing the debate on the Appropriation Bill in the Upper House, said people aware of developments.
The Lok Sabha is likely to end early even as it has two debates on price rise and climate change in its agenda, said the people quoted above, requesting anonymity. There was speculation that the session might be adjourned in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday itself after Speaker Om Birla tried to stop Opposition-sponsored disruptions and said he was appealing to lawmakers “on this last day” to go back to their seats.
This will be the fifth time in a row when a Parliament session got adjourned sine die ahead of schedule. The first one was the 2020 budget session that was wrapped up 13 days ahead of schedule. The winter session of 2020 and this year’s budget as well as monsoon sessions also faced early closure due to Covid-19.
This time, the session will end a day before its planned fixture amid fears of an aggressive spread of the new Omicron variant.
The session that started with the repeal of three contentious farm laws found a cautious government sending as many as four key bills to House panels for reviews. On Tuesday, women and child development minister Smriti Irani announced in the Lok Sabha that the legislation to increasing the minimum age for a woman to marry at 21, at par with men, should be sent to the standing committee related to the ministry.
While a section of the political spectrum was in favour of the legislation as it could control birth rates, Opposition parties were skeptical about the “political objective” of the bill and wanted a detailed review.
Two days ago, Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav proposed to send the bill to amend the biodiversity laws to a select panel. The mediation bill, which sets up an alternative dispute redressal system at pre-litigation stage of civil or commercial disputes, was also referred to a panel.
Two Opposition leaders claimed that the government reached an agreement to refer the amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act to a committee for review -- this will allow stakeholders to give their opinion on the bill.
The hotly contested electricity bill amendments that aim to de-license the power distribution sector and allow private sector players to compete with discoms, was halted as per the agreement with protesting farm unions.
“This is not a change of heart of the Modi government. They are simply referring these contentious bills to panel to avoid the mistake they made by bulldozing the farm laws,” claimed Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes linking electoral rolls to the Aadhaar database on a voluntary basis and make the language of India’s election law gender-neutral, was approved by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. It was passed by the Lok Sabha a day ago.
As on Tuesday, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha utilised 85% and 44% of their allotted time, respectively. Seven bills have been already cleared by both Houses in this session.