The government has released an ambitious list of 72 Bills to be taken up in the Budget session of Parliament beginning Thursday. However, the absence of political unanimity on most of these Bills presents challenges to the United Progressive Alliance government.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said apart from the general Budget, a host of Bills ranging from the Food Security Bill to the Lok Pal Bill would be discussed in the Budget session, traditionally the longest. The ordinance on stronger laws for rape - the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 - has to be replaced with a Bill in 42 days.
However, there is no political agreement on any of these. While the Left parties feel the Food Security Bill is inadequate, almost all parties have disagreements on the current draft of the Lok Pal Bill.
But it is the anti-rape law that poses the biggest challenge. According to law, an ordinance is valid for six months, subject to being ratified at the next session of Parliament and within 42 days of its promulgation. Parliament would be in recess from March 22 to April 22. The six-week period within which the ordinance has to be ratified would end in the first week of April. Therefore, it has to be passed and approved by the President before the session goes into recess.
The government is in a bind on how to achieve this. During consultations, most parties had expressed concern on the misuse of such a draconian law. They have advised the government to send it to a standing committee. If the government does this, the ordinance would lapse.
The anti-rape ordinance is not the only one that has to be passed quickly. The Securities and Exchange of Board of India (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (No. 1 of 2013) and the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Ordinance, 2013 (No. 2 of 2013) also need immediate attention.
Nath said the Budget session would begin on February 21 and end on May 10. “During this period, the two Houses will adjourn for recess on Friday, March 22, to reassemble on Monday, April 22, to enable department–related parliamentary standing committees to examine the demands for grants relating to various ministries/departments and make their reports to the Houses,” he said.
The session would have 34 sittings - 21 before the recess and 13 after it. The session would primarily be devoted to the ‘Motion of Thanks’ related to the President’s address, business related to the Railway and General Budgets for 2013-14 and the Jharkhand state budget. Sufficient time would also be provided for essential legislative and non-legislative businesses.
The President would address both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. Railway Budget 2013-14 would be presented to the Lok Sabha on February 26, immediately after Question Hour. While the Economic Survey of India would be presented on February 27, the general Budget for 2013-14 would be presented on February 28.