Two Houses, over 300 hrs, 18 bills passed

Indian Express, April 13, 2017

Budget session ends as ‘one of the most productive’, govt thanks Opposition for some bills, criticises over others.

Describing it as “one of the most productive sessions”, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the two Houses passed 18 bills during the budget session that closed Thursday. The session, divided into two parts, had begun on January 31, with a month-long recess in between.
Ananth Kumar thanked the Opposition for the passage of various bills, including those relating to the budget and GST, but was also critical of its stance on the Constitution amendment bill aimed at forming a new National Commission for Backward Classes and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha after Lok Sabha had passed them. “The Congress will have to reply to questions about the delay,” he said.

The bill for facilitating the new backward classes commission faces a three-month delay as the Opposition forced the government to refer it to a select committee. The government needs the Congress on board because a constitution amendment requires a two-thirds majority. The Opposition scuttled the government’s attempt to introduce the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha on the ground that it had not been listed in the day’s business. Ananth Kumar said Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had spoken to Opposition leaders to try persuading them but they did not agree.

Parliament held 29 sittings, with Lok Sabha in session for 176 hours 39 minutes and Rajya Sabha for over 136 hours. Lok Sabha’s productivity, according to the minister, was 114 per cent. This was despite the fact that the House lost 8 hours 12 minutes due to disruption, including one forced by the Shiv Sena over the flight ban by airlines on its MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who had allegedly assaulted an Air India employee.
Rajya Sabha’s productivity was lower than Lok Sabha’s, but still high at 92 per cent. “This session will go down as a golden chapter in the parliamentary history of the country,” Ananth Kumar said.

The three highlights of the session, according to the minister, were the advancing of the session, the passage of four GST bills to enable the implementation of the new indirect tax regime from July 1, and the presentation of an integrated general budget incorporating the railway budget.
He said for the first time in the Indian legislative history, all financial business of the government, including the Finance Bill, Demands for Grants and the Appropriation Bill, had been disposed of before the beginning of the new financial year.

Lok Sabha, according to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, disposed of 560 starred questions, of which 136 were taken up for oral answers. The members raised 494 matters under rule 377 and 158 private members’ bills were introduced. Ministers gave 51 statements.
Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari said Rajya Sabha saw 205 zero-hour submissions, 76 special mentions, 435 starred and 4,629 unstarred questions.

The session was marred by a sudden death of IUML leader E Ahamed.
The bills passed included Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill; Enemy Property (Amendment & Validation) Bill; Constitution (SC) Orders (Amendment) Bill; Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill; HIV & AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill; Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill; Central GST Bill; Integrated GST Bill; Union Territory GST Bill; GST (Compensation for Loss of Revenue) Bill; Mental Healthcare Bill; Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill; Finance Bill.

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