4 bills sent to Parliamentary panel, winter session will end today

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government referred four of the six controversial bills to a parliamentary panel, stalled one but quickly passed another in a politically charged winter session, sparking large protests, limited debate and A prolonged standoff was seen between the government and the opposition.

The winter session of Parliament, which began on November 29, will end on Wednesday after the Upper House concludes the debate on the Appropriation Bill, people informed about the developments.

Requesting anonymity, the people cited above said the Lok Sabha is likely to end early as price hike and climate change are two debates on its agenda. There was speculation that the Lok Sabha session may be adjourned on Tuesday itself as Speaker Om Birla tried to prevent opposition-sponsored disruptions and said he was appealing to MPs to go back to their seats “on this last day”.

This will be the fifth time in a row that the Parliament session has been adjourned sine die before the scheduled time. The first was the 2020 budget session which ended 13 days ahead of schedule. The winter session of 2020 and this year’s budget as well as the monsoon sessions faced early closure due to COVID-19.

This time, the session will end a day ahead of its planned fixture amid fears of an aggressive spread of the new Omicron variant.

In a session that began with repeal of three controversial agriculture laws, a cautious government sent four key bills to a House panel for review. Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday announced in the Lok Sabha that a law to raise the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 years at par with men should be referred to a standing committee attached to the ministry.

While a section of the political spectrum was in favor of the law as it could regulate the birth rate, opposition parties were skeptical about the bill’s “political purpose” and wanted a detailed review.

Two days ago, Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav had proposed to send the bill to a selected panel to amend the biodiversity laws. The Arbitration Bill, which establishes an alternative dispute redressal mechanism at the pre-trial stage of civil or commercial disputes, was also referred to a panel.

Two opposition leaders claimed that the government had reached an agreement to refer amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act to a committee for review – this would allow stakeholders to voice their opinion on the bill.

Electricity bill amendments that de-licensed the power distribution sector and allowed private sector players to compete with discoms were put on hold in accordance with the agreement with the opposing agriculture unions.

“This is not the change of heart of the Modi government. Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh claimed that they are sending these controversial bills to the panel to avoid mistake by bulldozing agricultural laws.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to link the voter list with the Aadhaar database on a voluntary basis and make the language of India’s election law gender-neutral, was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The Lok Sabha had passed it a day earlier.

As on Tuesday, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha utilized 85% and 44% of their allotted time respectively. Seven bills have already been approved by both the houses in this session.