Winter session of Parliament: A chance to pass all pending bills

Parliament will sit for the winter session from November 24 to December 23. This is the third session after the new government took charge: The short inaugural session had just the President’s address, and the next session focused on the general and railway budgets.

The government also introduced a few bills in that session. Since then, standing committees have been formed and several bills have been referred to them. Some key bills at this stage include Factories Amendment Bill, the Juvenile Justice Bill, Railways Amendment Bill, HIV/AIDS Bill, and Persons with Disabilities Bill. There are several bills that are pending in the Rajya Sabha that were introduced by the previous government such as Mental Health Bill, the Real Estate Bill, and the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill.

The Mental Health Bill guarantees government funded care and treatment for mentally ill persons; allows them to make advance directives on how they will be treated during mental illness; and decriminalises attempt to commit suicide. The Real Estate Bill regulates transactions between developers of residential real estate and buyers, and requires all projects to be registered.

The Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill states that giving a bribe is an offence, and extends the protection of prior sanction for prosecution to former public officials. The government has issued two Ordinances last week. The Coal Mines (Special Provision) Ordinance aims to provide continuity of availability of coal after the Supreme Court’s order to cancel the allocation of 42 mining leases. It allows these coal mines to be allocated to PSUs, or to private companies (for specified end-use) through a public auction.

The Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Laws (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance is aimed to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court that divested the National Textile Corporation of some leased land. Both these Ordinances will have to be ratified by Parliament during the Winter Session; otherwise they will lapse and cease to have effect.

The government tried to get the Insurance (Laws) Amendment passed in the last session. However, the Rajya Sabha decided to refer the bill to a select committee. The committee is scheduled to submit the report by the end of the first week of the winter session. This bill allows foreign ownership of insurance companies to be raised to 49% if equity capital from the current cap of 26%. This could be one of the key bills discussed next session. The government has indicated that it could introduce two key bills that amend the Constitution.

This includes the bill that would enable the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax. This bill would need the support of twothirds of members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and then be ratified by 15 state assemblies.