The first half of budget session of parliament saw sharp political exchanges between the Narendra Modi government and opposition on a range of issues but it also witnessed passage of some crucial legislations including the real estate bill and the Aadhaar bill.
The session, which began on February 23 with the address by President Pranab Mukherjee to the joint sitting of two houses, saw the government face some embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha where it lacks majority.
The government was also not able to take up the Goods and Services Tax bill, pending in the Rajya Sabha, during the period and is expected to make a renewed push for its passage in the second half of the session, which begins on April 25 and will continue till May 13.
While the opposition sought to target the government over the controversies surrounding its actions concerning the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University, the government hit out at Congress over the “flip-flop” in the affidavits filed on the Ishrat Jahan encounter case during the United Progressive Alliance government.
The opposition succeeded in getting an amendment adopted in the Rajya Sabha to the motion of thanks to the president’s address despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to adopt it unanimously. On Wednesday, the house recommended five amendments to the Aadhar bill, which was brought as money bill by the government.
The amendments suggested by Rajya Sabha to Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, were later rejected by Lok Sabha.
Rajya Sabha has limited powers with respect to money bills but the opposition may have tried to score a political point.
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday also passed the Mines and Mineral (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2016.
The first half of session saw few adjournments though opposition and treasury benches sought to score against each other. The monsoon session and winter session had seen repeated adjournments by the opposition on a range of issues and very little business being transacted.
Members cutting across party lines backed the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2016 with Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu terming it “historic” and asserting that the new law will help bring down property prices.
The debate on motion of thanks to the president’s address saw Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi taking potshots on Modi and the prime minister hitting back in his reply. The Lok Sabha also took up discussion on the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase.
The session also saw BJP, Congress and CPI-M members attack the Trinamool Congress over a sting operation allegedly showing several of its leaders taking “bribes”. The matter has been referred to the ethics panel by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The controversy stuck the West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool weeks before the assembly polls in the state.
The ethics committee also served notice on Rahul Gandhi, asking if he had ever declared himself a British citizen.
According to PRS Legislative, which tracks work of parliament, Lok Sabha functioned for 120 percent of its scheduled time while Rajya Sabha functioned for 97 percent of its scheduled time during the first half of session.
Question Hour in Lok Sabha has worked for 87 percent of the scheduled time, while in Rajya Sabha it has worked for 85 percent of its scheduled time, it said.
“During the Session, both houses on a number of occasions sat beyond scheduled time. Key bills were taken up, alongside general discussion on the budgets. While financial business is the focus of a budget session, discussion on important issues like situation in central universities and Aircel-Maxis controversy also took place,” said Trina Roy of PRS Legislative Research.
According to PRS legislative, the bills passed by parliament during the first half of the session include the Election Laws Amendment Bill, 2016, the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, the Bureau of Indian standards Bill and the National Waterways Bill.