The Week In Parliament

In the ongoing winter session, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) passed The Prohibition of Electric Cigarettes Bill, 2019, the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu (Merger of Union Territories) Bill, 2019 were also presented in the Upper House.

The Lower House (Lok Sabha) passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that sharply reduced the corporate taxes after a stormy debate in the house during which Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman said that the decision was aimed at attracting investment to spur growth and create jobs. She added that the decision was a strategic one-to make India a competitive destination for multi-national companies (MNCs) looking for an alternative to China amid the ongoing Sino-US trade war. She added “Any company incorporated after October 1 and investing in a manufacturing unit can opt to pay at the rate of 15 per cent, as long as it does not avail any exemptions and starts production before March 31, 2023. With cess and surcharge it works out to an effective tax rate of 17 percent.” This tax cut has been widely hailed by the captains of industry as a positive measure taken by the Modi Government for helping Indian companies become competitive.

The Upper House (Rajya Sabha) passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019 that seeks to prohibit the production, storage and advertisement of electronic cigarettes in the country with a voice vote. The bill defines e- cigarettes which may contain nicotine and other chemical substance to create vapour for inhalation. It provides an imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of one million US dollar. The Health Minister Dr. Harshwardhan replied to the debate and remarked that it demonstrated India’s willingness to anticipate challenges in tobacco control and make timely interventions.

The Upper House also passed The Special Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Last week, the lower house had passed the amended bill, which proposes to give SPG protection only to the Prime Minister and his immediate kin, and ex PM and family for five years. The Lok sabha passed another bill to merge the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The merged UT will be named as Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu”. The Lower House also passed recycling of Ships Bill 2019. This Bill restricts the use of hazardous materials on ships and regulates the recycling of ships.

The Union cabinet also approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or (CAB), which is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week. The cabinet approval for CAB on December 4 was crucial as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been strongly advocating a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise. The bill aims to provide citizenship to those refugees primarily Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This is a drastic shift from the citizenship Act of 1955 which labels a person as an illegal immigrant if he or she does not have proper travel documents or overstayed.

The Cabinet approved Personal Data Protection Bill and the government will be introducing the bill in the ongoing winter session. The Bill intends to lay down broad guidelines on collection, storage and processing of personal data, consent of individuals, penalties and compensation, code of conduct and enforcement. The critical data including financial and health records will have to be stored in India. For the foreign players, provisions will be defined once the Bill would be introduced.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah informed the house that the government has set up a committee to suggest necessary amendments in Indian Penal code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc). During Question Hour in Upper House Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai said that the government has issued strict instructions to states for deporting all illegal immigrants from the country.


Script: Yogesh Sood, Journalist