Reforms through law – 10 key legislations in the pipeline

By Upmanyu Trivedi

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance stormed to power a year go with a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha after United Progressive Alliance-II became a symbol of policy paralysis and dysfunctional Parliament.

The productivity of Parliament has certainly increased, but the Rajya Sabha still remains tricky for the Modi government as it lacks majority in the upper house. There were legislations it managed to get passed with support from some opposition parties, still many were sent to joint committees.  Also, there are few in the draft stage.

Following is a list of 10 important legislations that are in the pipeline:

GOODS AND SERVICES TAX

With “broad political consensus”, implementation roadmap and most states on board, the government is keen to get the Goods and Services Tax bill through. The constitutional amendment bill for GST was passed in the Lok Sabha, but referred to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks numbers. Panel has to submit its report by last day of the first week of the Monsoon Session.

BANKRUPTCY LAW REFORMS

The new government identified bankruptcy laws reforms as “key priority” area for ease of doing business as they provide legal certainty for entrepreneurs as well as lenders. In August, a committee was set up for suggesting changes in bankruptcy laws. On Mar 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured that the government will unveil a comprehensive Bankruptcy Code in the current fiscal year.

PUBLIC DEBT MANAGEMENT

Jaitley’s February Budget added a new dimension to the government-RBI face off with a proposal for the Public Debt Management Agency of India Bill. Jaitley had to later climb down and the proposal to curtail RBI’s powers on regulation and management of government securities was put on hold at least for this year. Jaitley later said the government would prepare a detailed roadmap for the proposal in consultation with the RBI.

LAND ACQUISITION

Easily the most controversial bill in the past year was the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The Modi government found itself on the defensive to shrug off the “suit boot ki sarkar” tag and had to refer the bill to a joint Parliament panel, which will give its reports on the first day of the next session. The land ordinance will be re-promulgated in the meanwhile.

REAL ESTATE REGULATOR

The opposition blocked the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 in the Budget Session labelling it as pro-builders and against homebuyers. The government earlier this month decided to refer the crucial bill for real estate sector to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha that is required to submit its report by the last day of the first week of the monsoon session.

NATIONAL WATERWAYS

The National Waterways Bill, 2015 is aimed at regulating and developing waterways for shipping and navigation. The Lok Sabha this month referred it to a standing committee. The bill seeks to declare 101 waterways across the country as national waterways, up from five at present.

CHILD LABOUR

The Cabinet has cleared the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 for being tabled in the Monsoon Session. Provided their school education is not hampered, the bill allows below 14 years to work in non-hazardous family enterprises and audio-visual entertainment industry, except in circuses. The proposed changes to the bill have come under severe criticism from child right activists.

LABOUR LAW REFORMS

The government intends to push a slew of changes in labour laws. In the Monsoon Session, the government is likely to push Code on Industrial Relations Bill, Small Factories Bill, and amendments to Employees’ Provident Fund law. Most trade union are opposed these changes. Reportedly the government plans to reduce 44 labour laws to five to make it easier for companies to do business.

CAMPA FUND

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill seeks to provide a legal framework in absence of which over 380 bln rupees, nearly 0.8% of FY15’s fiscal deficit, wrested with an adhoc committee being supervised by the Supreme Court since over a decade. Once the bill is passed, states and centre will be free to use the fund, made up of compensation deposited by project proponents for diversion of forests. The bill is now with a Parliamentary standing committee.

ANTI-CORRUPTION LAWS

Proposed changes in Prevention of Corruption Act, and the Whistle blowers Protection law are also pending. Amendment in penal law on corruption, cleared by the Cabinet calls for time-bound trial and harsher punishment but mandates prior government sanction for prosecution of even retired government employees. Changes in law to protect whistle blowers, passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha, limits the protection only for those who disclose information obtained through Right to Information.

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