New Delhi: Parliament’s Budget Session begins on Monday with all eyes on the all-important Economic Survey to be presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday, followed by the Budget on February 1.
This would be the Narendra Modi government’s last full-fledged Budget before the 2019 Lok Sabha election — next year the government will present a Vote on Account.
Apart from the Budget, several other crucial bills are on the agenda for this session, including the contentious triple talaq bill, which criminalises the practice instant divorce among Muslims.
News18 looks at the key bills which are set to be debated in the Budget Session:
Triple Talaq Bill
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 28, 2017.
The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal. It defines talaq as Talaq-e-Biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce. Talaq-e-Biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in instant and irrevocable divorce.
The opposition has demanded that the bill be reworked to reduce the penalty term and make the offence a civil one. It has also demanded that the legislation be referred to a Standing Committee.
Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017
The Rajya Sabha will take up for consideration the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017. The Bill increases the cap on the GST Compensation Cess levied on motor vehicles from 15% to 25%.
The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on December 22, 2017. The Bill amends the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, 2017 and replaces an Ordinance promulgated in September 2017.
It allows the central government to notify the rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Compensation Cess on items such as pan masala, coal, aerated drinks and tobacco, subject to certain caps. The amount received by levying the GST Compensation Cess is used to compensate states for any loss in revenue following the implementation of GST.
Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017
This Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and needs a go-ahead from the Rajya Sabha now. It will become a law after the President's approval.
The amendment proposes radical changes in the 30-year-old law, with high penalties for various traffic offences. It proposes a three-year jail term for parents of minor drivers causing fatal accidents and a 10-fold increase in compensation for families of accident victims.
The Bill has a provision for protection of Good Samaritans. Those who come forward to help accident victims will be protected from civil or criminal liability. It will be optional for them to disclose their identity to the police or medical personnel.
The Bill also makes Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining driving licence and vehicle registration number.
Consumer Protection Bill, 2018
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on January 5. It replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The bill defines a consumer as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. It covers transactions through all modes, including offline and online, through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing and direct selling.
The Bill also gives six key rights to consumers — (i) to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property; (ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services; (iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and (iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.
National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017
The National Council for Teachers Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 attempts to make teachers getting trained in institutions that are not accredited by the NCTE eligible for teachers’ jobs.
The Bill was tabled by the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development. It seeks to amend the provisions of the NCTE Act, 1993, which was enacted to provide for the establishment of the NCTE.
The Bill mandates that every institution offering a teacher education course has to obtain recognition from the Regional Committee.
The Bill introduces a one-time measure to grant retrospective recognition or permission to such institutions or courses, as the case may be, by suitably amending Sections 14 and 15 of the 1993 Act.
New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2018
A Bill for establishing an international arbitration centre in Delhi was introduced in the Lok Sabha just before it was adjourned.
The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2018, was introduced by Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary. The bill proposes the establishment of an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration and for acquisition and transfer of undertakings of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Justice BN Srikrishna, former judge of the Supreme Court, was instrumental in drafting the Bill and told News18 that “it will give a tremendous boost to India’s arbitration scene once the bill sees the light of day.”
Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017
The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 18. It seeks to amend the Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 to allow for proxy voting and to make certain provisions of the Acts gender-neutral.
The Bill also seeks to amend the electoral law to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to vote through postal or e-ballots.
The proposal was introduced when the Centre made its submissions to a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
The poll panel had said that the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility would require changes either in Representation of People Act or in the rules made under the Act.
The Centre also submitted that the Bill would take into account the recommendations made in a report prepared by a 12-member committee, led by the Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi, to explore the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors.
Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017
This Bill will make formal sector workers eligible for tax-free gratuity up to Rs 20 lakh.
After this amendment, the government would be able to increase the maximum amount of gratuity by an executive order.
Besides, the Bill would also enable the central government to enhance paid maternity leave by executive order. At present, it is 12 weeks under the Act. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 has enhanced the maximum maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot on April 5, 2017. It seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
Currently, under the Constitution, the NCSC have the power to look into complaints and welfare measures with regard to Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and Anglo-Indians. The Bill seeks to remove the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to Backward Classes.
Electricity Amendment Bill, 2017
The government is expected to introduce the Electricity Amendment Bill that provides for 24x7 power and direct benefit transfers in the Budget Session.
The new law will impose hefty fines on discoms for outages, Union Minister for Power RK Singh told reporters on the sidelines of an event on Wednesday.
That’s in line with the government's Rs 16,320-crore Saubhagya scheme to provide electricity in all urban and rural households by December. The scheme aims to provide power to about 3 crore unlit homes.
The existing law imposes a universal service obligation on power distributors to provide electricity to all and the penalty for non-compliance can go up to Rs 1,000 a day. The government is now working to increase penalties son discoms.
Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017
Ninong Ering, a Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh, has moved a Private Members’ Bill, the Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017 which has proposed that women working in the public and private sectors get two-day paid menstrual leave every month.
The Bill also seeks to provide better facilities at the workplace during menstruation.
Wages Code Bill
Wage Code Bill would enable it to set benchmark minimum wage for different regions.
Wage Code Bill is set to be the first labour code which would be pushed for passage in the Budget Session. Reports suggest that the Labour Ministry is expecting Parliament's Select Committee to table the Bill in the Budget Session.
The Bill seeks to combine Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Minimum Wages Act, 1949, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 into one code.
However, though the government is likely to push for the bills, a possible majority in the Rajya Sabha for the ruling NDA government by the next session can be a factor in a majority of the above Bills being kept pending for a smooth passage later on. This is especially in the case of bills which have passed through the Lok Sabha hurdle.