THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE NDA government, after assuming office, has been constantly trying to bypass well-established parliamentary procedures. To push through crucial legislations without proper scrutiny, the government’s approach is to firstly use its “brute majority” in the Lok Sabha to bulldoze all oppositions to anti-people laws, and secondly, to pass off any legislation that deals with or relates to finance as a ‘Money Bill’, which under our Constitution, does not required approval by the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling dispensation is in minority. The Modi government’s intention is clear from the fact that in the past one year, as many as 44 out of a total 51 Bills were cleared by the Lok Sabha without any consultations and without any discussion in the related Standing Committees. Raising this matter in the Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said all of us are aware of the constitutional provisions. We are only saying that we want the Speaker of Lok Sabha to decide what is the set of rules on the basis of which he or she may decide which Bill is a ‘Money Bill’ and which is not. Unless there is a constitutional amendment, we know that the government cannot say anything, or do anything. Let the other House first define the set of rules for declaring a piece of legislation as ‘Money Bill’, instead of the government arbitrarily tagging crucial bills as ‘Money Bill’ to bypass approval of the Upper House. Black Money and GST Bills The Upper House passed the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015, known as the ‘Black Money’ Bill. Members cutting across party lines supported the Bill, but many put on record their disagreement with some of its aspects. Speaking on this, Sitaram Yechury said we want all black money to be returned to the country and utilised for our development. But this Bill is “inadequate” to meet that task. The term ‘black money’ should be changed as it has a very “racist connotation”, he demanded. The one-time amnesty scheme proposed by the government is not going to work. It may, in fact, turn out to be a means to protect the offenders. We need to re-look at all the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties. This is absolutely necessary if the government is serious about curbing the black money menace. The government must take up this issue with other countries and stop this loophole in the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties. When several countries have collected details from the tax havens and are prosecuting their own citizens holding these unaccounted accounts, why can’t our government do so? Speaking on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, A Sampath sought the government’s response on certain aspects. Sampath supported the Bill with a proviso that this has to be considered by the Standing Committee first. Black money is being generated in violation of norms, causing losses to the nation. There is flight of capital. Why is this flight of capital happening? It is because there are ample loopholes in almost all the relevant laws. But this flight can happen only with the help from unholy nexus of the political class, bureaucrats and the corporates. The amount of black money stashed outside India is also increasing day by day. The net result is that there is an ever-increasing parallel economy. We are becoming prey to it. Agreements are signed without any discussion in Parliament. We have the largest number of migrant workers working in the gold and jewellery sector. So they should not be harassed in the name of retrieving black money, he said. The government introduced the crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the Upper House amid uproar over charges of irregularities by a private firm linked to the family of Union Roads and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari. The GST Bill was sent to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha. Purti Sakhar Karkhana Limited, linked to the Gadkari family, has found a mention in a recent CAG report for alleged non-compliance of conditions to obtain a government loan. The issue was taken up in both the houses of Parliament and the opposition demanded resignation of Gadkari. Land Bill The government once again failed to push through the controversial land Bill. A united opposition forced the government to refer the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to a joint committee comprising members of both the Houses. The panel has 30 members -- 20 from Lok Sabha including CPI(M) member Md. Salim and 10 from Rajya Sabha. The panel has been mandated to submit its report on the first day of the next session. Opposing introduction of the Bill, M B Rajesh raised two issues. Firstly, he said, this Bill has got provisions which will lead to land grab and the farmers throughout the country are opposed to it. The Bill favours the interest of the big business and the corporates. Provisions of farmers’ consent and social impact assessment have been done away with in this Bill. The government is saying that it is acting in the interest of the nation. But what the government is actually saying is that the national interest is the interests of the corporates. Secondly, the entire process of promulgation of the Ordinance, its re-promulgation, and the introduction of the Bill is against the basic scheme of Article 123 of the Constitution. Speaking on the land Bill, Md. Salim said we are technically having a futile exercise. On the one hand the government is not taking Parliament seriously and on the other, questions are being raised about its intention as to what it wants to do. The government must know as to what and why it is doing this. It should be taken seriously as to how important land is to our country, society, people, farmers and agriculture. I am proud that being a Marxist we have tried to ensure that the person who is cultivating the land become the owner of the land. We had fought against feudalism. Now efforts are being made to hand over our natural wealth to private people. After this, laws would be brought regarding coal, minerals, land, water, canal and rivers. In some states, even water of rivers has been privatised. If the government is pro-farmers why is it abolishing the consent clause? The day when the Prime Minister said that the consent of the farmers is not needed, the World Bank said that social impact assessment should be done and consent should be taken regarding Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana, else the World Bank will not advance loans to the government. That is why allegations are being levelled against the government that our environment is being sacrificed for the sake of capitalism. So, we oppose this Bill. It is we who had forced the UPA-I government to bring the forest-dwellers’ rights law in favour of the Adivasis. Then agenda was to provide lands to them. But what is the government giving them now? What has it done for them in the past year? The government talks of rehabilitation. Providing employment is not the solution. This issue relates to our life, livelihood, culture and way of living, etc. The stand of the government is that it is being done to improve the law passed in 2013. It is not based on need. It is based on greed. How much land has this government given to the domestic and foreign monopolists and capitalists in Gujarat? I want to make it very clear that this law is not pro-farmers. This law is not regarding land. This law aims at providing land through auction to certain persons in the country. Our voice can be stifled in the House but the farmers’ voice cannot be stifled. The priority of the government is to prevent suicides by farmers, provide fair price for their produce and to reduce their input costs. Instead of doing these things, this government is trying to take away land of the farmers. While opposing the Bill, CPI(M)-supported Independent MP Joice George made the point that as far as farmer is concerned land is not only a tool for earning his livelihood but also an asset for him. If we take away land from him, he will be asset-less and the generations to come will also be asset-less. By this amendment, the government has proposed to take away the provision of obtaining farmers’ consent before acquiring land. The provision for social impact assessment is also going to be taken away from the Act. If the land is grabbed from poor farmers without any social assessment study, then people will be displaced from their habitats. They will be rootless. They will become refugees. So, as far as all these social impact assessment studies are concerned, there should be a proper rehabilitation programme for the farmers. Without a proper rehabilitation package for the farmers, their rights cannot be protected, he said. Other Bills The Lok Sabha passed the Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill. Speaking on this, P Karunakaran said that we should do a re-think on the law-making process itself that we are engaged in nowadays. Though Parliament discusses a piece of legislation, we discuss only half of the portion while the other half is completed by bureaucrats. As far as law is concerned, it should give equal treatment to the people, whether they are rich or poor, but we see that in many cases, law is not implemented in such a way. Therefore, there is an impression that law is not giving equal treatment to the people but is in favour of the rich. All Bills have to be scanned in details as far as possible. The Lok Sabha also passed the Whistle-blowers Protection Bill despite stiff resistance from the opposition and demand to send it to the Standing Committee. Speaking on this, A Sampath said in the past 12 months, 44 out of a total 51 Bills have been passed by this House without any consultations, without taking any evidence, and without any discussion in the Standing Committees. The sole intention of the government in bringing this Bill is to water down the rights of the whistle-blowers. No law is there to protect them. If the government has any intention to strengthen the whistle-blowers' rights it should protect them first. If the current scenario continues, my humble submission to the government is that we may be forced to enact new laws. The government is not at all being able to protect the whistle-blowers. The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. Speaking on this, A Sampath drew the attention of the minister concerned to Clause 3 (2) of the Bill which deals with jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has held that the territorial jurisdiction for dishonour of cheques is restricted to the courts within whose local jurisdiction the offence was committed. This Bill is meant to address the difficulty arising out of the Supreme Court judgement. He asked whether the government has taken any suggestion, opinion or comments from the consumer organisations before formulating the law. The government was generous to take suggestions from the industry and commerce. My simple question is, if you are protecting the interest of the commerce, industry, etc. it is not only your honour but also your duty to protect the interest of the common man. Why should you drag all these men to the court? Sampath said the place of transaction should be the criteria for presenting the complaint. The jurisdiction should be based on the place of transaction between the parties and not the convenience of the complainant or the accused. This Bill should have been referred to the Standing Committee of Law and Justice and that Committee should have taken ample evidence from various stakeholders and then only it should have been passed. The Rajya Sabha passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which seeks to amend the “cumbersome” the Companies Act of 2013 to facilitate ease of doing business. The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-second Amendment) Bill, 2014, passed by the Lok Sabha, has been referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha consisting of 21 members including K N Balagopal of CPI(M). On May 13, both the Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die.