Parliament resumes on Monday with an exhaustive legislative agenda. This includes a Bill that proposes to ban all the private cryptocurrencies and facilitate introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), the Banking Laws (amendment) Bill 2021 that clears the decks for privatisation of two public sector banks, the PFRDA (amendment) Bill 2021 that fulfils the Budget 2019 commitment regarding separation of National Pension System Trust from PFRDA and then, of course, a Bill to repeal all the three farm laws. There are, altogether, 26 fresh Bills listed for introduction and passage in the Lok Sabha. The Joint Select Committee of Parliament has simultaneously adopted its report on the Data Protection Bill which would also be tabled in the House. It would be unfortunate if Parliament does not debate these Bills and they are passed in the din, as has become the practice in recent years. It is the Opposition’s contention that the Government uses its brute majority in Parliament to ram through Bills without debate. The passage of important laws without due deliberation amounts to a violation of public interest and of the raison d’etre of Parliament itself — for which the Opposition too must take its share of the blame. Too often does it resort to creating a bedlam or boycotting Parliament proceedings. The absence of legislative scrutiny leads to poorly drafted laws, which need subsequent, and often avoidable, revisions.
The Government’s tendency to include amendments to different laws in the Finance Bill is a case of legislative scrutiny being undermined; the Government is obviously emboldened by the absence of the Opposition in Parliament. These amendments would turn into ‘money bills’, which do not require the sanction of the Rajya Sabha. Accordingly, the Finance Bill, 2015 contained amendments in the Forwards Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952, Foreign Exchange Management Act, and Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The 2017 Finance Bill similarly amended as many as 44 Acts including the Cinematograph Act and the Green Tribunal Act. The Supreme Court subsequently struck down the amendments to the Green Tribunal Act.
In order to override the Supreme Court verdict not just in the case of green tribunals but all other tribunals, the Government brought in a general Act as Tribunal Amendments Bill that impacts the Industrial Disputes Act, Railway Claims Tribunals Act, SEBI Act, AAI Act, TRAI Act, Trademarks Act and a number of other statutes. This too was passed without any debate in this year’s Monsoon Session, and was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court by the Congress party. As many as 20 Bills were passed in the Monsoon Session without debate. For this, the Opposition too is to blame. The Opposition must bring rigour and seriousness into the House, before merely accusing the Centre of railroading its own agenda. In the Data Protection Bill, the Government is learnt to have given itself exemptions and escape clauses. These aspects need to be debated threadbare. Raising slogans or walking out will amount to abdication of public interest.