Winter session: Not a washout this time round

Business Line, December 23, 2012

It was not a washout as one had expected it to be, going by past record.

The just-concluded Winter Session had positive vibes on reforms, with the UPA Government managing to win Parliament’s nod for FDI in multi-brand retail and the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill getting the approval of both the Houses.

The ruling combine expectedly claimed victory and dubbed it as a “fruitful session”. Clearly, the UPA (read Kamal Nath) should get kudos for ‘managing’ the Opposition on multi-brand retail and relenting on some controversial clauses in the Banking Bill to get the Bill passed.

A lot of effort went into getting the Companies Bill passed in Lok Sabha at the fag end of the Winter Session, but the steam was lost when it came to getting Rajya Sabha’s nod, where the Government did not really show any urgency.

But, some progress is better than no progress. All eyes are now on the Budget session, as far as getting the Companies Bill enacted into law, which India has been looking to enact for over a decade now.

Stormy start

So, while the Winter session started off on a stormy note, it was only at the fag end that the Government could push some economic Bills, in a bid to re-affirm its reform-oriented credentials.

Many expected that the much-talked about Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill would get Parliament nod in the Winter session, paving the way for hike in foreign investment in insurance to 49 per cent from 26 per cent.

But somehow, this proposal was ‘sacrificed’ at the altar of BJP as part of the ‘grand bargain’ that UPA seemed to have struck with the largest Opposition party to move forward on other economic Bills.

Also, the Banking Bill was passed only after the Government was forced to drop a controversial clause on allowing banks to deal in forward trading in goods (commodities).

The Government’s bid to ‘sneak in’ the clause was thwarted by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who said that as the clause had not been discussed by the Standing Committee, headed by him, it would either have to be dropped or referred back to the Committee.

There were 25 Bills that the Government had identified for passing in the Winter session, but only seven of these sailed through.

Overall, even though the session witnessed disruptions on issues such as FDI in retail and quotas in job promotions, it did manage to do some business.

Key reform Bills passed

  • The Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011 to strengthen the recovery process of secured loans and provide for registration of securitisation transactions.
  • The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which permits voting rights in proportion to shareholding and strengthens the supervisory and regulatory powers of RBI.
  • The Prevention of Money-Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which links the provisions of Indian law with the laws of foreign countries, enlarges the definition of money-laundering and removes existing limit of Rs 5 lakh in fine.
  • The Appropriation No. 3 Bill, 2012, which authorises expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.