Land bill, GST to be referred to panels

DNA, May 12, 2015

With the entire Opposition resisting the land acquisition bill, the government is all set to refer it to a joint committee, in a strategy aimed at ensuring its passage in the monsoon session of Parliament. The 30-member panel is likely to be headed by senior BJP member of parliament SS Ahluwalia.

The ruling NDA will have a numerical edge over the Opposition in the committee, which will have representatives of parties from both Houses, including around 12 from the BJP. The proportion of members on a joint committee from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is generally 2:1, sources said.

Under the rules, the motion appointing a joint committee mentions a specific date or indicates the period within which its report is be presented to the House. If a specific date is not mentioned, the committee has to report by the last day of the first week of the next session or on the opening day of the next session. With the Chairman being from the BJP, the ruling side would have a say in setting the timeline for presenting the report, sources said.

Meanwhile, the land acquisition ordinance is likely to be repromulgated again, government sources said. The Ordinance has already been repromulgated twice as the bill has been facing stiff resistance from the Opposition, which has dubbed it as “anti-farmer”.

The government has been trying to counter the Opposition campaign inside and outside Parliament but being in a minority in Rajya Sabha, it finally decided to refer it to a Joint Panel. Sources said if after that the bill was rejected in Rajya Sabha, the government could go in for a joint session in which it would have a majority.

While passage of the bill will be put off till the next session, which begins in July, the government has sent a message on its intent on the legislation, a top government source said.

This is the first time in ten years that a bill is being referred to a Joint Committee. In the past two decades, a Joint Committee has been set up on six occasions, including on the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005, Central Vigilance Commission Bill, 1999, Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Bill, 1999

A Joint Committee becomes functus officio as soon as it presents its final report to the House and thereafter a Motion to refer another Bill to that Committee cannot be moved, sources said.

On Monday, after the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha amidst protests from the Opposition, Government floor managers were busy finalising the process of setting up a Joint Committee. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu had meetings with leaders of political parties, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma of Congress. However, the Congress had not given the names of its members till late in the evening. Among those in the Joint Committee are Kalyan Banerjee (TMC), B Mahtab(BJD), Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena), Murali Mohan (TDP), B Vinod Kumar (TRS) and Vara Prasad Rao (YSR Cong).

Meanwhile, the GST could be referred to a 21-member Select Committee, which is likely to be headed by senior BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav. However, government sources said last minute efforts were on push the GST bill in Rajya Sabha.

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