It is official now. Two key bills taken up in the winter session of Parliament, one regarding regulation of cryptocurrency and the other concerning privatisation of public sector banks have been deferred. The bills were among the 26 new bills that were listed for introduction, consideration and passage during the winter session which was adjourned sine die ahead of schedule on Wednesday.

This is the second time the ‘The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021,’ has been deferred. Earlier, it was listed for the budget session also, but could not be introduced. The government is keeping mum on why the bill has been deferred. Also, there is no confirmation yet whether the bill will be introduced in the budget session.

According to Lok Sabha Bulletin, the bill aims “to create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India. The Bill also seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India; however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.”

Meanwhile sources said that there are multiple views on cryptocurrency. One view led by Reserve Bank of India argues for a complete ban while another section does not support a complete ban, rather it advocates for categorisation of cryptocurency as an asset class and appointing SEBI as the regulator. Then there are issues of taxation -taxing gains under Income Tax law and services under GST law. It seems the government is yet to evolve a consensus on these issues resulting in deferment of the bill.

Banking Bill

Another bill titled ‘The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ also did not see the light. The bill intends to amend the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Acts, 1970 and 1980 and incidental amendments to Banking Regulation Act, 1949 in the context of Union Budget announcement 2021 regarding privatisation of two public sector banks.

The government has repeatedly said that consideration of various issues related to disinvestment, which inter alia, include selection of the bank(s) is entrusted to the Cabinet committee designated for this purpose. Decision by the concerned Cabinet committee for privatisation of PSBs has not been taken in this regard. It seems that any decision in this regard is more political than economic and as States such as UP and Punjab are going for poll soon, the bill has been deferred as of now.

Overall Productivity

Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said that the lower house had 18 sittings during the session which saw business transacted for 83 hours and 12 minutes. However, over 18 hours were lost on account of disruption. “Overall productivity was 82 per cent,” he said. Further, 12 government bills were introduced and 9 got passed.

The Upper House clocked productivity of 47.90 per cent during the 18 sittings of the Winter Session. Out of the total scheduled sitting time of 95 hours and 6 minutes, the House could discharge business only for 45 hours and 34 minutes. “This session’s productivity of 47.90 per cent is the fifth lowest among that of the 12 Sessions presided over by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu over the last four years. A total time of 49 hours and 32 minutes has been lost due to persistent disruptions and forced adjournments. The time lost amounts to 52.08 per cent of the available time,” according to an input from the Rajya Sabha secretariat.

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The Question Hour has been the worst hit with 60.60 per cent of the total allotted time lost in disruptions. Question Hour could not be taken up at all on seven of the 18 sittings.

Naidu, in his valedictory address, expressed his concern and dismay over the functioning of the House during the Winter Session. The Opposition agitated during the session over the suspension of 13 MPs, not allowing discussion on the Bill to repeal three farm laws and against pushing the passage of bills such as the bill to link voters’ list with Aadhar without sending it to a Standing Committee.