Parliament's winter session: A curtain-raiser on legislative agenda

IN the scheduled Winter Session of Parliament beginning from November 29, the Government of India is all set to introduce a total of 26 new Bills on the different range of subject matters. Of them, three Bills would be introduced to replace Ordinances, namely – the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 (NDPS Amendment Ordinance), the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 (CVC Amendment Ordinance) and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 (DSPE Amendment Ordinance).

The Lok Sabha secretariat on Tuesday released a bulletin which provides details of the three Bills that were introduced in the Lok Sabha already but were referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees. They are – the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The government needs Parliamentary approval to the three Ordinances because under Article 123(2)(a) of the Constitution, every Ordinance is required to be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament, or, if before the expiration of that period resolutions disapproving it are passed by both Houses.

The NDPS Amendment Ordinance was issued on September 30 this year to rectify a drafting error. Under the NDPS Act, financing certain illicit activities (such as cultivating cannabis, or manufacturing narcotic drugs) or harbouring persons engaged in them, is an offence. Persons found guilty of this offence will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of at least ten years (extendable up to 20 years) and a fine of at least one lakh rupees.

When the NDPS Act was amended in 2014, the clause number of the definition for such illicit activities was changed. However, the section on penalty for financing these illicit activities was not amended and continued to refer to the earlier clause number of the definition. The Ordinance amended the section on penalty to change the reference to the new clause number.

The CVC and the DSPE Amendment Ordinances were promulgated by the President earlier this month to make the respective tenures of the Director, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), extendable up to five years from the existing fixed tenure of two years.

In the meanwhile, the All India Trinamool Congress party has raised objection to the Ordinances route for the extension of the tenures questioning the government’s hurry at a time when the winter session of Parliament was barely two weeks away. It moved notices for statutory resolutions in the Rajya Sabha objecting to the Ordinances, and its Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra recently challenged the ordinances before the Supreme Court.

The Union Finance Ministry will introduce ‘The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021’ that seeks to create a facilitative framework for the creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India. The Bill also seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India. However, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.

Earlier this month, a Parliamentary panel reached a consensus that cryptocurrency cannot be stopped but must be regulated. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India have voiced concerns about the unregulated growth of cryptocurrencies in India, keeping vulnerable retail investors in mind.

“On crypto … we have serious concerns from the point of view of macroeconomic and financial stability. How the issue has to be dealt with – we have given our detailed suggestions to the government; as far as I know, the matter is under the active consideration of the government, and the government will decide,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das had said at a media event.

Besides, the Law Ministry intends to introduce the Bill on Mediation to propose for pre-litigation mediation and at the same time place safeguards in the interest of the litigants to approach the competent adjudicatory forums/courts in case an urgent relief is sought. The Ministry had released the draft bill on mediation last month.

In July this year, the Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana stressed the need to have a law making mediation the mandatory first step in the dispute resolution process.

As announced by the Prime Minister last week, the Government has listed ‘The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021’ in the House to repeal the three contentious farm laws, namely the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The Government will also be moving ‘The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021’ to provide a legislative framework to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for meeting the obligations of India under the Convention and the obligations of NADA as a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, as amended from time to time.

The Bill to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and to provide for care, protection, assistance and rehabilitation to trafficking victims, is also listed for introduction in Parliament. The Bill is titled as ‘The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021’.

The Union Government also wishes to introduce ‘The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to facilitate de-licensing of power distribution so as to encourage competition between private sector and state-owned companies, and the appointment of a member with law background in the Regulatory Commissions. The bill will also help to strengthen the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL), apart from providing penalty for noncompliance of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO), and prescribing rights and duties of consumers.

The other Bills that the Union Government will be introducing to the House, and their objectives in brief, are as follows:

  • ‘The Chartered Accountants, the Cost and Works Accountants and the Company Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to reform and speed up the Disciplinary Mechanism of the Institutes.
  • ‘The Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to further strengthen and streamline the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
  • ‘The Cantonment Bill, 2021’ to provide for greater democratization, modernization and overall improvement in governance structure of Cantonment Boards.
  • ‘Inter-Services Organizations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2021’ to empower the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command of Inter-Services Organisations in respect of persons subject to theArmy Act, 1950, the Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950, who are serving under or attached to his command, for maintaining of discipline and proper discharge or their duties.
  • ‘The Indian Antarctica Bill, 2021’ to provide harmonious policy and regulatory framework for India’s Antarctic activities, and to provide national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystem as per theAntarctic Treatythe Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
  • ‘The Emigration Bill, 2021’ to replace the Emigration Act, 1983 so as to establish a robust, transparent and comprehensive emigration management framework that facilitates safe and orderly migration.
  • ‘The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to amend the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 2013 to fulfil the Budget Announcement 2019 regarding the separation of National Pension System Trust from Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), and to fulfil the Budget Announcement 2020 for ensuring universal pension coverage as well as strengthening PFRDA.
  • ‘The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to effect amendments in Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Acts,1970 and 1980 and incidental amendments to Banking Regulation Act, 1949 in the context of Union Budget announcement 2021 regarding privatisation of two Public Sector Banks.
  • ‘The Indian Maritime Fisheries Bill, 2021’ to repeal the Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981; provide for the sustainable development of fisheries resources in the exclusive Economic Zone of India, the responsible harnessing of fisheries in the High Seas by Indian fishing vessels, and the promotion of livelihoods of small-scale and artisanal fishers and related matters.
  • ‘The National Dental Commission Bill, 2021’ for setting up a National Dental Commission and to repeal the Dentists Act, 1948.
  • ‘The National Nursing Midwifery Commission Bill, 2021’ to repeal the Indian Nursing Council Act, 1947, and set up a National Nursing and Midwifery Commission which will have a transparent, professional and accountable selected Regulator, rather than an elected Regulator.
  • ‘The Metro Rail (Construction, Operation and Maintenance) Bill, 2021’ to replace theMetro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978, and to provide legal framework for construction, operation and maintenance of metro rail projects including those under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
  • ‘The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021’ to amend the High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954 and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958.
  • ‘The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to provide for enhanced new and additional financial, technological and capacity-building support so as to meet India’s Paris Agreement commitments and fully implement our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in a timely manner.
  • ‘The National Transport University Bill, 2021’ to re-designate National Rail and Transportation Institute as National Transportation University, and declare it as an autonomous body and Institute of National Importance.
  • ‘The Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to make an amendment in the List of Scheduled Tribes pertaining to the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • ‘The Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to make an amendment in the List of Scheduled Tribes pertaining to the State of Tripura.

Click here to read the Lok Sabha bulletin 
(Paras Nath Singh is a Delhi-based lawyer.)

The Leaflet