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The week in Parliament: Time wasted in grants discussion, Land acquisition, GST remains pending

PRS Legislative Research’s Trina Roy reports:

Yesterday, Lok Sabha took up discussion on the Finance Bill. This Finance Bill, a money bill, includes various tax proposals presented in the Budget. A money Bill does not require to be passed by the Upper House.

Before the debate began, two chapters, related to Public Debt Management Agency and Forward Contracts Regulation, which amended the Government Securities Act, the Forward Contracts Regulation Act and the RBI Act, were removed from the Bill. Several members raised concerns, highlighting that this Bill should not contain non taxation proposals. Members pointed out that while all money bills are finance bills, all finance bills are not necessarily money bills. Members felt that this Finance Bill included financial matters outside the definition of ‘money bill’ as per Article 110 of the Constitution. Hence such provisions in the Bill would need to be passed by Rajya Sabha as well. Members stated that inclusion of provisions regarding benefits to senior citizens, prevention of money laundering were beyond the mandate of this finance bill and the power of Rajya Sabha to legislate on these issues should not be curtailed.

The Minister argued that as per Article 110 (1) (b), ‘money bills’ can contain amendments to a law with respect to ‘financial obligations’ and hence these were within the purview of the Bill.

The Speaker finally ruled that this Bill could be taken up for detailed discussion. The Bill with 41 amendments was passed by the lower house.

Week Wrap:

During the week, financial business continued to be the focus in both the Houses. While Lok Sabha discussed Demands for Grants of Ministries, Rajya Sabha undertook discussion on the Working of Ministries.

The Lower House completed discussion on the Demands for Grants of four Ministries.  These were the Ministries of Human Resource Development, Home Affairs, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and Health and Family Welfare.

The Demands for Grants were in total voted upon on Wednesday and the Appropriation Bill for the same was passed.  Of the total demands for grants voted upon, 92% of the demands were guillotined while 8% of the demands were discussed.

With the passage of the Finance Bill in Lok Sabha yesterday, all financial business in the house has been completed.

Rajya Sabha began discussion on the Working of Ministries this week. Members extensively discussed the working of the Law and Justice Ministry.

In terms of legislation, Rajya Sabha passed the Warehousing Corporation(Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Regional Rural (Amendments) Bill, 2014. Both Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha previously.

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Upper House this week. The Bill permits state governments to set up courts at the district level and commercial divisions in certain High Courts to hear commercial disputes of a value of Rs. 1 crore or more.

The debate on the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill,2013 was scheduled on April 29, but was deferred as members sought more time to examine the amendments brought in by the government to the Bill. It was decided that the Bill would be moved after the Parliamentary Affairs Minister consulted the members of the house about the same.

Productivity in both the houses has been high.  Productivity of the Session until Wednesday in Lok Sabha was at 121% while in Rajya Sabha it was at 108%. During the Session, Question hour in both the houses functioned for 87% of its scheduled time as of yesterday.

Among important legislations, the Land Acquisition Bill remains pending in Rajya Sabha. The ordinance on land acquisition is currently in force and will expire on June 4. It remains to be seen if the Upper House will pass the Bill in the upcoming sittings left in this Session. Rajya Sabha is scheduled to sit until May 13.

The Constitutional Amendment (GST) Bill, 2014 also remains to be taken up though it has been on the list of business for Lok Sabha during this week. With the completion of financial business in the Lower House, the Bill may be taken up during the upcoming week.  Lok Sabha is scheduled to sit until May 8.

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