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Parliament Review: The 2022 Budget session ends after passage of important Bills

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During the last week of the budget session of parliament for the year 2022, there was extensive discussion on some of the important bills such as the criminal identification bill, the merger of the three municipal corporations in Delhi. The issues of Russia-Ukraine conflict, price rise were also discussed. Here is a review of the last week of the second leg of the budget session.

The Budget Session of the Parliament concluded on 07 April 2022, a day earlier than scheduled on completion of essential government business. Both houses were adjourned sine die due to demand from leaders of various political parties. The session had commenced on 31 January 2022 with the President’s address. Both Houses were adjourned for recess between 11 February 2022 and 14 March 2022 for Departmentally related Standing Committees to examine and report on the Demands for Grants relating to various Ministries/Departments. The first part of the Budget Session yielded a total of 10 sittings each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.  In the second part of the Session, there were 17 sittings each in both the Houses. 

Key developments

The last week of the session had only four sittings.  Eight new members took oath in the Rajya Sabha. The issue of rising fuel prices was raised multiple times by the opposition and led to protests resulting in adjournment. In the Rajya Sabha, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray expressed the need for displaying signboards in Central Government Establishments including Metro Railway Stations in West Bengal in the Bengali Language along with English and Hindi. The Chair also agreed to it stating that government signboards in every state should have the mother tongue, state language, Hindi, and English so that people can understand.

During a discussion on The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 in the Lok Sabha, the issue of overcrowding of prisons was raised. It was stated that there was 120% occupancy in the prisons because of overcrowding, and 70% of the inmates were undertrials.

Russia-Ukraine war was discussed in both the Houses. Opposition MP N K Premachandran stated that India’s evacuation programme would have been better if early cautious steps were taken as other countries did. He added that the advisories of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy in Ukraine regarding the crisis lacked clarity and direction. Another MP, Dr. T Sumathy stated that India should take the moral responsibility as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia. Other MPs also raised concerns about the completion of education by the medical students returning from Russia and the need to improve the medical education in the country so that students need not go abroad. Responding to the discussion, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar said that India is strongly against the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and if India has chosen a side, it is the side of peace. He also added that India’s approach will be to promote dialogue, end the conflict, and mitigate economic distress for itself and for the world.

Details of Bills taken up

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 which aims to authorize the police to take measurements of convicts and accused, to preserve their records, for the purposes of their identification and investigation in criminal matters, was taken up for consideration and passed in the Lok Sabha. There was a heated debate on the Bill with the opposition calling it ‘unconstitutional’. They added that the law had scope for misuse, especially in the absence of a data protection law. Home Minister Amit Shah clarified that narcoanalysis, polygraph test, or brain mapping is not included in the Bill and that the Bill was aimed at reducing the crimes in the country by sending a strong message to the society. The Bill was passed by both, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to amend The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957  to merge the trifurcated North, South, and East Delhi Municipal Corporations was passed in the Lok Sabha in the previous week. The Rajya Sabha also passed the Bill. Home Minister assured that the Bill does not harm the federal structure.

The Chartered Accountants, the Cost and Works Accountants, and the Company Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 2022 that seeks to amend the existing Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, the Cost and Works Accountants Act, 1959, and the Company Secretaries Act 1980 that was passed by the Lok Sabha and introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the previous week was passed in the Rajya Sabha.

The Lok Sabha also passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950. The Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha in the previous week. 

The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022, introduced by the External Affairs Minister in the Lok Sabha, seeks to expand the 2005 law to include a ban on funding of weapons of mass destruction and freeze, seize or attach funds or other financial assets or economic resources owned or controlled wholly or jointly by such person. The Bill was passed by the House.

Reports tabled

The 13th report of the Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas on the safety and security of oil installations of public sector oil companies has recommended that Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry should find out why ONGC chose Skymet for weather forecasting services. It also added that ONGC should take weather bulletins, advisories, and also location-specific forecasts for its installations from the India Meteorological Department.

Standing Committee on Labour, Textiles and Skill Development submitted a report on “Implementation Of National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)/National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS)” in which it recommended that the stipend given to apprentices be increased by a sizeable extent so that it is on par with the stipend given for technical courses offered by the Ministry of Education. The committee added that the reimbursement of the stipend amount at the prescribed rate for both NAPS and NATS be facilitated in a timely manner so that the MSMEs are encouraged to engage more and more apprentices.

Notable Questions

Responding to a question on whether the government is planning to resume the population census, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the Census 2021 and related field activities have been postponed until further orders due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and added that the forthcoming Census is to be the first digital Census with a provision for self-enumeration.

A question on whether the government has thought of finding the forgotten freedom fighters was raised to which the Home Affairs Ministry responded that the ‘Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s freedom struggle from 1857 to 1947 published by the Ministry of Culture has recorded the names of freedom fighters. Further, during the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebration to commemorate 75 years of independence, special focus has been given to commemorating heroes of freedom struggle, stated the Ministry.

The Minister of Information & Broadcasting stated that it tracked a total of 175, 114, 61, 77, 186, and 28 Twitter/e-mail/ Government websites pertaining to Government accounts and Government offices that were hacked during the years 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (up to February) respectively in response to a question on details pertaining to hacked government websites.

The Minister of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) also stated that 5 cases of abetment to suicide through online games were registered in Tamil Nadu in 2017 and 2 cases in 2018- 1 each in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were registered. No cases were registered in 2019 and 2020, in response to a query in the Lok Sabha.

Session Summary

The session began with the President’s address. The Union Budget for 2022- 23 was presented and a general discussion on it was held in both Houses in the first part of the Session. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were engaged for a total of 15 Hours 35 minutes against the allotted 12 Hours and 11 Hours 01 minute against the allotted 11 Hours, respectively in this discussion. A total of 13 Bills (12 in Lok Sabha and 01 in Rajya Sabha) were introduced during this session. 13 Bills were passed by Lok Sabha and 11 Bills were passed by Rajya Sabha. 11 Bills were passed by both Houses.

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