The third & last week of the winter session of parliament was dominated by large scale suspensions of opposition MPs who persisted with the demand for a discussion on security breach in the Lok Sabha. The three revised criminal law bills were also passed.
The third week of the 2023 winter session is marked with the suspension of a large number of members for the remainder of the session as they persisted with the demand for a discussion on security breach. The security breach occurred on 13 December 2023, with the Lok Sabha Secretariat and Delhi Police investigating the matter. Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs set up an inquiry committee headed by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director-General Anish Dayal Singh to probe the security breach.
Persistent with the demand for discussion on the security breach, the opposition continued to protest. A total of 143 members were suspended from both houses of the Parliament, with Lok Sabha at 97 and the rest from the Upper House. Amidst all these suspensions, the Parliament witnessed the passage of some crucial bills.
The Lok Sabha is adjourned Sine die, with 14 sittings for approximately 62 hours. 12 bills were introduced, while 18 bills were passed during the session in Lok Sabha.
On 14 & 15 December 2023, the business in the Lower House was restricted to suspension of the members from the house. On 18 December 2023, the Telecommunications Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Lower House. Interestingly, this bill was introduced as a Financial Bill. The bill aims to consolidate and amend the laws pertaining to the growth, enhancement, and functioning of telecommunications services and networks, allocation of spectrum, and related or associated matters. On the same day, the Post Office Bill, 2023, which was passed earlier by Rajya Sabha, was also passed by Lok Sabha.
On 19 December 2023, the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2023 aimed to benefit 40 lakh people through authorization of colony, thereby according them with proprietary or ownership rights; the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) (Second Amendment) Bill, 2023 that was concerned with the eligibility criteria for members of the tribunals, and the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill, 2023 that aimed to streamline the provisions of CGST act with the Tribunals Reforms Act, were passed in Lok Sabha. The CGST Bill 2023, and the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill, 2023 were passed by the Upper House the next day.
On the same day, i.e. 19 December 2023, three revised criminal law bills- The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, and The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 were taken up for discussion in the Lower House. They were earlier referred to the Standing Committee, whose reports can be read here, here, and here in the same order as above. These recommendations were incorporated in the latest version of the bills, and these were introduced on 12 December 2023 in Lower House. Despite the absence of a huge number of opposition members, the three revised criminal law bills and the Telecommunications Bill, 2023 were passed in the Lower House on 20 December 2023.
On 21 December 2023, the Lok Sabha saw the passage of the highly contentious bill Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023. This bill was earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha on 12 December 2023. Further, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill 2023, which was earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha on 03 August 2023, was also passed by the Lower House. The Lok Sabha is adjourned sine die.
Important Standing Committee reports
The third week of the session also saw the presentation of few action-taken reports of various ministries/departments. Along with them, some new reports were also presented. Some of them are as below.
- 41st report of Standing Committee on Energy on Bioenergy and Waste to Energy – Recovery of Energy from Urban, Industrial and Agricultural Wastes/Residues and role of Urban Local Bodies in Energy Management.
- 151st report of Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare on Implementation of Ayushman Bharat.
- 42nd report of Standing Committee on Defence on Review of working of DRDO.
- 27th report of Standing Committee on External Affairs on ‘India’s engagement with G20 Countries’.
- 23rd report of Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas on ‘Review of Policy on import of Crude Oil’.
- 52nd report of Standing Committee on Labour, Textiles and Skill Development on ‘National Policy on Child Labour – An Assessment.’
- 324th report of Standing Committee on Industry on ‘Promotion of Electric Vehicles in the Country’.
- 46th report of Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers on ‘Insecticides & Pesticides – promotion and development including safe usage – licensing regime for insecticides.’
Some important and interesting Parliamentary questions
- To a question regarding the share of MSMEs in GDP, the Ministry remarked that the share of Gross Value Added (GVA) of MSMEs in all India Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the year 2021-22 was around 29%. Furthermore, a total of 15,67,20,689 employment was recorded on the Udyam Registration Portal & Udyam Assist Platform from 01 July 2020 to 15 December 2023.
- On a question on penalties on FASTAG users, the Ministry responded that the total number of FASTags issued as on 30 November 2023 is 7,98,07,678. Almost 98% of all transactions on tolls take place through FASTags. For users with no FASTags or users without valid or functional FASTags, an amount equivalent to twice the normal user fee is charged. The amount of user fee collected from such users in the last 12 months from fee plazas administered by NHAI (December 2022 to November 2023) is Rs. 860.38 Crore with a transaction count of 729.65 lakhs.
- To a question on the protection of consumers under National do not disturb registry, the Ministry stated that from 2019, a blacklist has been compiled containing more than 20 telemarketers, approximately 500 principal entities (PEs), exceeding 3,000 SMS headers, and over 40,000 content templates. These entries were flagged due to their involvement in sending phishing SMS or Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC). Further, TRAI has imposed a Financial Disincentive amounting to Rs. 109.92 crores in accordance with the provisions of Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR) -2018.
- On the share of agriculture in total Gross Value Added, the ministry responded that the share declined from 35% in 1990-91 to 15% in 2022-23. It was 18% in 2010-11. However, in growth terms, agriculture and allied sectors have registered an average annual growth of 4% during the last five years.
- On the deaths due to tiger attacks, the Ministry stated that around 112 human deaths happened due to tiger attacks in 2022. Over the past five years, this has been increasing. It was 31 in 2018, 49 in 2019, 51 in 2020, 59 in 2021, and almost doubled to 112 in 2022.
Matters raised under Rule 377
Some of the important matters raised by members under Rule 377 are as below.
- Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy regarding the need to improve the early warning system and provide real-time updates during cyclones or floods, especially in coastal areas.
- Mansukh Bhai D. Vasava regarding the need to give ownership rights of the forest lands cultivated by tribals.
- P.P. Chaudhary regarding the establishment of courts for dealing with specialised subjects.
- Vinod Kumar Sonkar regarding the need to frame a national policy for impounded vehicles kept in police stations for violation of traffic rules.
- Arvind Sawant regarding the grant of old pension scheme.