India’s Parliament Begins its Monsoon Session: Here’s What to Expect

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India’s parliament commenced its Monsoon Session on July 18, with the government keen to get back to business.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to push forward key bills, with an eye to next year’s general elections.

This session will be the second last one before the country goes to polls in 2019; legislation tabled could have bearing on the ruling party’s performance.

Several predominantly regional opposition parties, including the Telegu Desam Party (TDP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will seek to shore up their national credibility as new coalition camps get drawn up before the elections.

The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress Party, which has suffered major setbacks in almost every state election after losing power in the 2014 general election – looks poised to remain on the back foot.

Another major concern that could logjam the latest session concerns the state of Andhra Pradesh, whose elected representatives are demanding that the state be accorded a Special Category Status with implications for federal funding and investment.

This is because when Andhra Pradesh was partitioned in 2014, its existing capital and main revenue maker, Hyderabad, was lost to the newly created state of Telangana.

Key bills pending after washouts in previous sessions

Several key bills are up for discussion in this session – to streamline the Goods and Services Tax (GST) roll-out, empower authorities to deal with loan defaulters, amend the bankruptcy law, improve the dispute resolution process, and introduce capital punishment for a certain category of offenders, among others.

The last two parliament sessions – Winter and the Budget – were among the least productive, according to media reports, carrying over 68 pending bills into the current session.

In fact, during the Budget Session 2018, which lasted from January 29 to April 6 – the lower house of parliament spent barely one percent of its allotted time discussing legislative agenda, and only 14 minutes on the passage of government bills.

Packed legislative agenda

18 new bills are listed for introduction, consideration, and passage over the course of 24 days. Parliament will have to discuss and deliberate 43 bills listed for passage over 18 sittings.

The Modi government will prioritize the passage of bills replacing the six ordinances currently in force to ensure they do not lapse.

These were passed by the president on the recommendation of Modi’s cabinet in response to immediate challenges facing the government, such as the US$1.89 billion bank scam involving fugitive diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and discrepancies in the administration of the GST.

The six bills that will replace the ordinances are:

  • The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018;
  • The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018;
  • The National Sports University Bill, 2017;
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018;
  • The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018; and,
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2018.

New bills waiting to be introduced include:

  • The National Medical Commission Bill, 2017;
  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018;
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017; and,
  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

Bills that are waiting to be approved include:

  • Four bills related to the Goods and Services Tax;
  • The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018; and,
  • The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018.

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