By Abhishek Jha:
The government has been facing heat from the opposition parties due to the scams that have come to light in recent months, and the ordinances and bills that were passed in the Budget session. An all-party meeting was held in the national capital on Monday to ease tensions and plan for a smooth functioning of the parliament. However, it did not yield results as the government has decided to defend its ministers embroiled in scams. As the monsoon session of the Parliament is all set to begin, we look at some of the issues that are likely to be addressed in the parliament.
1. The Land Acquisition Bill: On the first day of the session, the Joint Committee of Parliament is going to seek extension “up to the First day of the Third week of current Session of Parliament“, for presenting its report. Headed by BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia, the Committee has so far received 672 representations, out of which 670 have opposed the amendment. Reports suggest that the government is likely to promulgate the ordinance for the fourth time in anticipation of the Bihar Assembly elections and, due to expected disruptions in the parliament.
2. The Goods and Services Tax Bill: The Bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha in the previous session of the parliament and had been sent to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for scrutiny. The Committee has prepared a report wherein the Centre has given in to the states’ demand for full compensation for the losses incurred by them due to the bill for five years. Earlier the Centre has said that full compensation will be provided only for three years, after which it will be lowered to 75% in the fourth year and then 50% in the fifth. While the bill is on a smoother path now, it is unlikely that it will be passed in the current session due to major roadblocks awaiting the government.
3. The IIM Bill: The IIM Bill, which had been put in the public domain for discussion, saw major opposition from IIMs themselves, who thought that a few clauses in the bill could be a threat to their autonomy, and would give too much power to the government. The HRD ministry has been in consultation with the IIMs since the public outcry and it is likely that clarifications will be provided in the monsoon session.
4. Juvenile Justice Bill: Amongst the 10 bills pending in the Rajya Sabha, one is the controversial Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2015. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha amid stiff opposition from the opposition which objected to clauses that lower the age of trial for heinous crimes for the juvenile. As the BJP does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House, it is unlikely that the bill will go through.
5. Negotiable Instruments Bill: The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which was promulgated on 15th June is likely to be introduced as a bill in the parliament in the current session. The amendment makes clarifications on the sections regarding the “the territorial jurisdiction for trying the cases for dishonour of cheques.”
6. Road Safety Bill: The Road and Transport Safety Bill, 2015 is also scheduled to be introduced in the monsoon session. Introducing norms compatible with international standards and fines, the bill has been facing opposition from both, industries-wary of harsher norms, and workers- worried that it will put an end to Regional Transport Offices.
7. Reservation of seats for women: Two other important amendment bills- The Constitution Amendment Bill (Reservation of Women in Panchayats) and Constitution Amendment Bill, scheduled to be introduced increase reservation for women up to half in Panchayats and Urban Bodies, respectively.
8. Vyapam Scam: Disruptions are expected in the parliament from opposition parties that are demanding resignation of the MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Professional Exams Board scam, which came to light after several deaths of accused in the case, has put the minister in a spot and BJP in the line of fire. However, the BJP has flatly refused to accept the demand for action against the Chief Minister. After BJP President Amit Shah met several party leaders, ahead of the monsoon session on Sunday, reports say that the party’s line of defence is going to be to cite the acceptance of the demand for a CBI probe.
9. Lalit-Gate: Both External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje have been at the centre of a controversy where they have been accused of exchanging favours with Lalit Modi, the businessman who is being investigated for financial irregularities by the Enforcement Directorate. Ever since documents suggesting exchange of favours were released, the Congress has been asking for their resignation from the BJP. However, BJP has refused the demands. After an all-party meeting on Monday, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has said that Sushma Swaraj may make a statement on the issue.
10. PDS Scam: Congress is also likely to demand the resignation of Chattisgarh Chief Minster Raman Singh over the PDS Scam involving thousands of crores of rupees. The scam had emerged in March after raids by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The Supreme Court on Monday asked petitioners seeking a CBI probe into the issue to either move the High Court or lodge an FIR. The Congress is also alleging the involvement of the Chief Minister.
Although there is quite a lot to be done in the parliament, with both the government and the opposition refusing to budge, it is unlikely that any work will be accomplished in this session. In fact, it is more likely that the refusal of the BJP to admit any fault on its behalf in the scams will make the Congress even more spirited and stubborn in its demands.