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Budget Session Of Parliament 2021: Highlights

Akshita Saxena
30 March 2021 11:36 AM GMT
Budget Session Of Parliament 2021: Highlights
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The Budget Session of the Parliament concluded on March 25, 2021 after both the houses adjourned sine die, two weeks ahead of their schedule. The session began on February 29 and was scheduled to end on April 8, 2021 with a recess from February 16 to March 7. A total of 18 Government Bills were passed by the Lok Sabha in 24 sittings that lasted 132 hours. Whereas the Rajya Sabha passed...

The Budget Session of the Parliament concluded on March 25, 2021 after both the houses adjourned sine die, two weeks ahead of their schedule. The session began on February 29 and was scheduled to end on April 8, 2021 with a recess from February 16 to March 7.

A total of 18 Government Bills were passed by the Lok Sabha in 24 sittings that lasted 132 hours. Whereas the Rajya Sabha passed 19 Bills that were discussed in a span of 34 hours.

Productivity of the lower house was recorded at 114% and that of Rajya Sabha at 90%.

Highlights of key legislative actions during the Budget session are given below:

1. GNCTD Amendment Bill To Enhance Powers Of Delhi Lieutenant Governor

Amid massive furore and protest from the Opposition members, the Rajya Sabha passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 on March 24. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 22.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Sigh declared the bill passed in a voice vote after a walkout by the opposition. Before the opposition walkout, the motion to consider the bill was passed with 83 'Ayes' and 45' Noes' and no abstentions. Following that, the opposition members walked out.

The Bill seeks to enhance the powers of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi by declaring him to be the "Government of Delhi".

It also provides that the opinion of the LG "shall be obtained" on all such matters as may be specified by the LG, before taking any executive action on decisions of the Council of Ministers of the Delhi Government.

The Opposition members voiced that the Bill would subvert the elected Government of Delhi by vesting overriding powers in the LG, who works at the instructions of the Centre, and will affect cooperative federalism.

They also opposed introduction of the proposed amendments by way of a simple Amendment Bill. It was stated that since Delhi has been conferred a special status under Article 239AA of the Constitution (Special provisions with respect to Delhi), any change in the powers of the Delhi Government should be brought by way of a Constitutional Amendment only.

It was also alleged that the Bill is an attempt to circumvent the interpretation made by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Delhi v. LG case, which held that the LG is an administrative head in the "limited sense" and that he is "bound by the aid and advise" of the Council of Ministers of Delhi Government, except in matters of land, police and public order.

Click Here to read salient features.

2. Bill To Enable Automatic Stay On Arbitration Awards Induced By Fraud/ Corruption

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 sought to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to:

(i) enable automatic stay on awards if Court is prima facie satisfied that the relevant arbitration agreement or contract/ making of the award was induced by fraud or corruption (This shall be deemed effective from October 23, 2015);

(ii) omit Schedule VIII of the Act and specify by regulations the qualifications, experience and norms for accreditation of arbitrators.

The legislation is seen as an attempt to make India a hub of international commercial arbitration. Many members of the Parliament appreciated the initiative to omit Schedule VIII (that specifies certain qualifications, experience, and accreditation norms for arbitrators) as it will attract eminent international arbitrators to the country and help in promoting institutional arbitration in India.

Some members however opposed the provision for automatic stay, remarking that it is a redundant amendment as Section 34(2)(b) of the Act already covers agreements induced by fraud/ corruption. Members also expressed apprehensions that the provision may be misused by the losing party to delay the litigation, by making false allegations of corruption/ fraud, thereby defeating the very purpose of alternate dispute redressal mechanism.

The Bill was notified by the Centre on March 11.

Click Here to read salient features.

3. Bill To Increase Upper Gestational Limit For Legal Abortions In India

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 modifies Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to extend the upper limit for medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks, from the present stipulation of 20 weeks, for certain categories of women which will be defined in the MTP Rules. These categories will include 'vulnerable women' including rape victims.

Opinion of one doctor will be required for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks; and opinion of two doctors will be required for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.

Notably, upper gestation limit will not be applicable in cases where the termination of pregnancy is necessitated by the diagnosis of any of the substantial foetal abnormalities, diagnosed by a Medical Board.

The Bill was notified by Centre on March 25.

Click Here to read salient features.

4. Bill To Increase FDI Ceiling Limit In Insurance Sector To 74% From 49%

The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the maximum permissible Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the insurance sector to 74%, from the current limit of 49%.

It may be noted that the foreign investment in insurance sector was first permitted in the year 2000 up to 26%. Subsequently, vide an Amendment Act of 2015, this limit was raised to 49% of the paid-up equity capital of such company, which is Indian owned and controlled.

The instant Bill removes such restrictions on ownership and control. However, such foreign investment may be subject to additional conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

"In order to achieve the objective of Government's Foreign Direct Investment Policy of supplementing domestic long-term capital, technology and skills for the growth of the economy and the insurance sector, and thereby enhance insurance penetration and social protection, it has been decided to raise the limit of foreign investment in Indian insurance companies from the existing 49% to 74%," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The Bill was notified by the Centre on March 25.

Click Here to read salient features.

5. Bill To Remove End-Use Restrictions Of Minerals; Allow Private Players In Mining

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 seeks to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and further regulate the mining sector in India by:

  • Permitting removal of restriction on end-use of minerals;
  • Enabling captive mines to sell up to 50% of their annual mineral production in open markets;
  • Easing the process of statutory clearances by allowing its transfer from one lessee to another;
  • Allowing private companies to enter mining exploration; etc.

Speaking on the Bill, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said that the mining sector in India is very weak and despite being the 4th largest Coal reserve, India still has to import Coal. The reason for this, he said, is non-involvement of private companies in this sector. He added that the Bill enables private players having advanced technology to enter exploration and boost the sector.

Eleven out of fourteen parties represented in the House however sought that the Bill be referred to the Select Committee.

Click Here to read salient features.

6. Bill To Classify 7 Scheduled Caste Groups Of Tamil Nadu As 'Devendrakula Velalars'

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and group seven Scheduled Caste communities in certain districts of Tamil Nadu under 'Devendrakula Velalars'. The move comes ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections scheduled on April 6, 2021.

The Bill seeks to replace the entry for the Devendrakulathan community with Devendrakula Velalar, which includes the communities that are currently listed separately within the Act. These are: (i) Devendrakulathan; (ii) Kalladi; (iii) Kudumban; (iv) Pallan; (v) Pannadi; (vi) Vathiriyan; (vii) Kadaiyan (in the districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam).

The separate entries of these castes in the 1950 Order have been omitted.

Click Here to read salient features.

7. Bill For Regularization Of Unauthorized Colonies In Delhi; Extension Of Protection From Sealing/ Demolition Till 2023

The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to extend the period available with the Government for regularization of unauthorized colonies under the NCT of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011.

The validity of this Act was set to expire on December 31, 2020, whereas the above objectives are yet to be achieved. Therefore, the Government sought to extend the operation of the 2011 Act until 31 December, 2023, to preclude any coercive measures such as sealing/ demolition against residents of these unauthorized colonies.

Click Here to read salient features.

8. Bill To Regulate Allied & Healthcare Professions; Establish National Commission & State Councils

The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020 seeks to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals in India.

It proposes to bring 56 categories of allied healthcare professions such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Ophthalmic Sciences, Nutrition Sciences, Trauma, Burn Care Surgical/ Anesthesia related Technology, etc. into 10 categories.

The Bill also contemplates establishment of a National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions and Councils at the State-level, to oversee such professions.

"The paramedics and allied healthcare workers are critical part of the medical profession and their contribution is similar to doctors, if not more. The group of allied professionals is large and the bill is trying to regulate this field, by providing dignity to their roles," the Health Minister said.

Click Here to read salient features.

9. Bill To Replace Existing Port Trusts & To Provide Greater Autonomy To Major Ports In India

The Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 proposes to remove Government control from Major Ports in India by dissolving the Port Trusts established under the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. It aims to provide them greater autonomy, flexibility and enable them to compete in the evolving market conditions.

It proposes to establish a Board of Major Port Authority for major ports situated in Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Kandla, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Paradip, V.O. Chidambaranar, and Vishakhapatnam.

This Board shall consist of two to four independent members and two members representing the interests of the employees of the Major Port Authority, apart from other Government authorities.

It also proposes to constitute an Adjudicatory Board that shall adjudicate on disputes or claims related to rights and obligations of major ports and PPP concessionaires, etc.

Click Here to read salient features.

10. Bill To Merge The Existing Cadre For India Services Officers Of J&K With AGMUT Cadre

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, that bifurcated the former State into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, and merge the existing cadre for India Services Officers of J&K with those of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre.

This shall enable the Government to depute IAS, IPS officers etc. from other Union Territories to the UT of J&K.

As per the Statement of objects and reasons annexed to the Bill, "There is a huge deficiency of the officers of All India Services in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The developmental schemes, centrally sponsored schemes and other allied activities suffer due to non-availability of All India Officers in the existing cadres of the Jammu and Kashmir as such there is a requirement of merging it with Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Union territories cadre so that the officers in this cadre can be posted in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir to meet out any deficiency to some extent."

Click Here to read salient features.

11. Bill To Establish National Bank For Financing Infrastructure & Development

The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 seeks to establish a statutory institution, namely the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID), to support the development of long-term infrastructure financing in India and to carry on the business of financing infrastructure. Its aim is to address market failures that stem from the long-term, low margin and risky nature of infrastructure financing.

The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development shall be a body corporate with its head office in Mumbai. The institution may however establish offices, branches or agencies at any place within or outside India.

It shall have an authorised share capital of Rs. 1 lakh crore. The Bill stipulates that shares of NBFID may be held by the (i) Central Government, (ii) multilateral institutions, (iii) sovereign wealth funds, (iv) pension funds, (v) insurers, (vi) financial institutions, (vii) banks, and any such institution as may be prescribed. However, the Central Government shall always hold at least 26% of the shares.

NBFID may borrow or raise money by way of loans or otherwise both in rupees and foreign currencies, or secure money by the issue and sale of financial instruments like debentures, bonds, etc.

Bills passed in Lok Sabha

1. Finance Bill 2021

The Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill, 2021 to give effect to the financial proposals of the Central Government for the financial year 2021-2022.

Apart from the Finance Act, the Bill also proposes to amend the Income Tax Act, 1961; Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956; the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956; the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956; the SEBI Act, 1992; etc.

Some major proposals under the Bill as summarised as follows:

  • Relaxation for filing return of income-tax for certain category of senior citizens;
  • Faceless proceedings before Income Tax Appellate Tribunal;
  • Constitution of Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) for small and medium taxpayers;
  • Enquiry and notice before Income escaping assessment & search assessments;
  • Exemption from Audit increased to ₹ 10 crore for those who carry out 95% of their transactions digitally;
  • Incentives for persons involved in business of developing rental housing project;
  • Advance tax instalment for dividend income;
  • Levy of Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess on petrol, diesel.

Also Read: Income-Tax Slabs Remain Unchanged; IT Relief For Senior Citizens Above 75 Years : Budget 2021 Highlights

Also Read: Union Budget : Impact Of Finance Bill 2021 On Judicial Precedents

2. Bill To Amend Juvenile Justice Act; Empower District Magistrates To Authorise Adoption Orders

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 seeks to re-define the category of "serious offences" under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and further, empower the District Magistrates to pass adoption orders.

Section 2(54) of the JJ Act provides that a serious offence is one for which the punishment under prescribed is between 3-7 years. Such offences are to be disposed of by the Board, by following the procedure for trial in summons cases under the CrPC.

In Shilpa Mittal v. State of NCT of Delhi, the Supreme Court observed that the Juvenile Justice Act does not deal with the fourth category of offences viz., offence where the maximum sentence is more than seven years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence, or minimum sentence of less than seven years is provided and treated the same as "serious offences" under the Act. It had asked the Law Ministry and the Home Ministry to ensure that the issue raised in this judgment about the 4th Category of offences is addressed by the Parliament as early as possible.

To give effect to the above recommendation, the Bill proposes to redefine 'serious offences' to include such offences for which the punishment is:

  • minimum imprisonment for a term of 3-7 years;
  • maximum imprisonment for a term more than 7 years but no minimum imprisonment or minimum imprisonment of less than 7 years.

Further, Section 58 of the JJ Act prescribes the procedure for adoption of children by prospective adoptive parents. The procedure involves a seal of approval by the Civil Court, which passes the final adoption order.

The Bill provides that instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will issue such adoption orders, both for intra-country and inter-country adoptions.

Click Here to read salient features.

3. Bill For Regulation Of Technological Advancements In Marine Aids To Navigation

With "enormous technological development" in the field of marine navigation, the Lok Sabha passed the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 to put in place a statutory framework for regulation of technological advancements in marine aids to navigation, and remove the operational difficulties arising thereof.

The Bill also proposes to repeal the Lighthouse Act, 1927, an over nine-decade-old law governing the traditional navigation aid, lighthouses.

The Bill mandates training programs for persons operating on any aid to navigation (including any ancillary activities), or any vessel traffic service.

It provides for appointment of a Director General, who will inter alia advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation. It also provides for appointments of Deputy Director Generals and Directors for districts.

The Bill further contemplates the appointment of a Central Advisory Committee consisting of such persons representing the interests affected by the Bill or having special knowledge of the subject matter thereof.

Click Here to read salient features.

Bills passed in Rajya Sabha

1. Bill To Declare Two Food Technology Institutes As Institutions Of National Importance

The National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019 seeks to declare certain institutes of food technology, entrepreneurship, and management as institutions of national importance. These institutes are:

  • the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management, Kundli
  • the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur.

As per the statement of object annexed to the Bill, these institutions are separate autonomous bodies exclusively on food processing sector, and provide solutions to the challenges faced by stakeholders of the sector, including farmers. The Bill therefore seeks to enable these institutes to exercise functional autonomy and start new innovative courses and to provide for instructions and research in food technology, entrepreneurship and management.

Click Here to read salient features.


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