Government races against time to push triple talaq, citizenship bills
The Narendra Modi government’s last session of Parliament in the 16th Lok Sabha that begins on January 31 is likely to be a race against time to clear pending bills which will lapse if not passed in this session.
The session, from January 31 to February 13, will have 10 working days with the first two dedicated to the President’s speech to the joint sitting of both Houses and the interim budget.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has a packed legislative agenda, comprising, in the main, the spillover from the two-month-long winter session. NDA functionaries indicated that the government’s top priority would be to clear the three ordinances — to penalise instant triple talaq, allow a panel to run the Medical Council of India, and approve an amendment to the Company Law.
While the current draft of the triple talaq bill has faced fierce resistance from opposition parties, the government is also in a fix on the bill to amend the Citizenship Act to allow minorities from three neighbouring countries to become Indian citizens.
The citizenship bill, too, could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha in the last session as the entire Opposition and some so-called friendly parties opposed the bill.
The two Houses will also have to dedicate at least 3-4 days for the discussion on the President’s speech and the budget. February 11, a Friday, is likely to remain reserved for private member’s bills. This leaves 3-4 days to push key bills, including those to replace key ordinances.
“The convention is that on the day the President addresses both Houses and the day budget is placed, no other substantive agenda, except obituary references or tabling of papers, are undertaken,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishwanathan.
Parliamentary affairs minister Narendra Singh Tomar will convene an all-party meeting, possibly on Wednesday, to lay out the government’s legislative agenda while the Opposition is expected to demand a debate on a number of their pet issues. Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will also call separate all-party meetings ahead of the session.
Tomar maintained that the detailed agenda will be decided by two business advisory committees headed by Mahajan and Naidu, respectively, for each House.
So far, the tentative agenda, HT learns, has no space for any Opposition-sponsored debate. The Congress and other parties are expected to demand a few debates on raging issues during the all-party meetings.
“This will be a challenging budget session for the government as it has lots of business and limited time. This will require good time and floor management as it can’t afford to lose time due to disruptions,” said former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah.The current term of the Lok Sabha, unless it is dissolved earlier, will end on June 3.
According to the PRS Legislative Research: “Parliamentary procedure specifies that a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha will lapse at end of its term if it is pending passage in either House of Parliament. A bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha and passed by it will also lapse if it remains pending in the Lok Sabha at the end of its term.”
While speculation is are rife about the contents of the interim budget, the Congress has warned the government against presenting a full budget. “The NDA-BJP government does not have the electoral mandate and legitimacy to present six full budgets in five years. Since they assumed office in May 2014, they have presented budget for 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The FY-2019 will commence on April 1, 2019. The tenure of this government ends on May 26, 2019. A government which is going to be in office for a mere 46 days from April 1, 2019, how does it have the legitimacy and mandate to present a budget for 365 days,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.