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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

Last updated on: March 14, 2012 14:48 IST

Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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M R Madhavan

The Budget session of Parliament started Monday with the President's address. The first part of the session is scheduled to last three weeks.

The focus will be on the debate on the President's address as well as the Railways and Union Budgets. There will be a three-week break in April during which Parliamentary standing committees examine the budgetary provisions made for different ministries.

The second part of the session will see debates on some of these budgetary allocations and they will be voted upon. Other than the financial business, Parliament is also slated to discuss a number of Bills.

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Image: Parliament is also slated to discuss a number of Bills. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will present the Budget.
Photographs: Reuters

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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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The agenda lists 39 Bills for consideration and passing. In this note, we describe some of these Bills. There are four Bills that address the issue of corruption or seek to improve the delivery of public services.

The Lokpal Bill was passed by Lok Sabha in the last session, and partly discussed by Rajya Sabha. It remains to be seen whether Rajya Sabha will continue the discussion and vote on it.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill requires judges to declare their assets and follow a code of conduct.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: There are four Bills that address the issue of corruption.
Photographs: Reuters

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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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It also provides a mechanism by which any person can complain against a judge for misbehaviour (including corruption).

Lok Sabha has started the debate on this Bill. The Whistleblower Bill was passed by Lok Sabha and has to be considered by Rajya Sabha. This Bill sets up a process for reporting of corruption cases by whistleblowers and for protecting them from being identified or victimised.

The Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Officials Bill makes it an offence to bribe an official of a foreign government or multilateral agency with the objective of getting preferential access or monetary gain. Two Bills relate to improvement of service delivery.

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Image: Lok Sabha has started the debate on this Bill.
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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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The Electronic Delivery of Services Bill requires every department of central and state governments to provide all services through electronic means (unless it is a service where this is not possible). This process is expected to reduce the direct interaction with an official, and thus reduce the scope for corruption.

The Citizen's Grievance Redressal Bill designs a standard procedure to be followed by all departments that enable a citizen to complain against deficiency in service provided. It has a time bound process to redress the grievances of citizens.

The agenda includes several Bills on regulation of financial markets. The PFRDA Bill creates a statutory regulator for the pension sector.

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Image: The agenda includes several Bills on regulation of financial markets.
Photographs: Reuters

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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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The Insurance Amendment Bill increased the cap on Foreign Direct Investment in insurance companies from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

The Forward Contracts Amendment Bill has three main provisions:  it removes the prohibition of options and derivatives in commodities, it provides a statutory status to the regulator (the Forward Markets Commission), and it requires all commodity exchanges to be corporatised and demutualised.

The Banking Amendment Bill removes the cap of 10 per cent on voting rights of shareholders; they would have the voting rights in proportion to the equity shares held. It also requires anyone acquiring over five per cent of a bank to take prior permission from the RBI.

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Image: A view of the Reserve Bank of India.
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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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It also states that all mergers between banks will require permission of RBI, and exempts these from the purview of the Competition Commission of India.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill is currently being examined by the standing committee.

This Bill replaces the Land Acquisition Act, 1984.  For any acquisition for use by a private company or a public-private-partnership, it requires the consent of 80 per cent of the affected people (land owners as well as others displaced such as landless labourers, craftsmen, artisans, etc.).

The compensation has been pegged at four times the recorded transaction prices in that vicinity in rural areas, and twice the figure in urban areas.

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Image: The Land Acquisition Bill is being examined by the standing committee.
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Budget 2012: A look at the Bills under discussion

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The Bill also requires every acquisition to provide for rehabilitating and resettling all people who are dislocated by the project.

The Unfair Practices Bill prohibits capitation fees in professional colleges, and requires them to disclose certain information in their prospectuses.

The Education Tribunals Bill sets up tribunals at the central and state levels to settle disputes in the sector related to affiliation of colleges to universities, unfair practices, and employment issues.

Two Bills amend the IIT Act and the NIT Act to add eight new IITs and IISERs to the list of institutions of national importance.

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Image: A view of IIT Ahmedabad.
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This Bill has a provision that seeks to prevent songwriters and music composers from assigning their rights in songs to anyone for use in any medium other than in films or music tracks.

The intent is to prevent contracts that has such assignation and which result in royalties from other mediums (such as mobile ringtones) to accrue to the producer of the movie and not to the composer of the song.

It also provides for joint ownership of copyright of films by the producer and principal direct#8744 currently only the producer has such rights.

This Bill also has provisions for compulsory licensing of works in forms that are accessible to persons with disability.

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Image: There is a Bill that tackles music rights.
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The agenda list has a few other important Bills. The Seeds Bill seeks to ensure the minimum quality standards for seeds purchased by farmers. The Pesticide Bill regulates the manufacture, sale and usage of pesticides.

Both these Bills have been listed in earlier sessions of Parliament but were not taken up for discussion. This Parliamentary session is scheduled to have 35 sittings. The government has listed 39 Bills for consideration and passing, in addition to the discussion on the budget and the Finance Bill.

It is an open question as to how much of this agenda will actually be completed.

(The writer heads research at PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi)

Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: The Pesticide Bill regulates the manufacture, sale and usage of pesticides.
Photographs: Reuters

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