To expedite the passage of the Finance Bill, the Rajya Sabha on Monday adopted a motion suspending the rule that entails that department-related parliamentary standing committees scrutinise and approve the demands for grants of respective ministries.
The terms of the previous committees expired in May. New committees are not in place as the Lok Sabha elections were on at the time. The Opposition supported the motion to suspend ‘Rule 272’ that mandates scrutiny by committees, but demanded an assurance that committees will soon be constituted. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan termed it an “emergency provision”, but said there have been at least four such instances during the Congress-led UPA years — in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014. He said the government does not want to “bypass the standing committees forever.” “This is not a provision forever. This is a provision for this session,” he said.
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien bemoaned the government having taken to bypass scrutiny by committees. He said both the Houses have already passed seven Bills and 10 more have come in. He said the government intended to get 17 Bills passed without scrutiny. Congress leader P Chidambaram wanted to know how soon the committees are likely to be constituted.
The Lok Sabha passed amendments to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to give it more teeth to allow it to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad. The amendments will also allow the NIA to probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking. The Opposition said it had misgivings about the NIA Bill and would try that the House refers it to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, as and when it is introduced in the House. Some Opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha said the anti-terror law is misused at times to target members of a particular community.
The Opposition also plans to refer the DNA technology (use and application) regulation bill, the unlawful activities (prevention) amendment bill and consumer protection bill. Opposition members said Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu agreed at the business advisory committee of the House that committees should scrutinise important bills. In the Lok Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah defended the amendments to the NIA Bill. “Let me make it clear that the Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism but we will also not look at the religion of the accused while taking action,” Shah said.
There are 24 department-related standing committees covering under their jurisdiction all the ministries/departments of the government. Of these, the Rajya Sabha secretariat is responsible for the functioning of eight and Lok Sabha of 16.