While the Lok Sabha passed The Finance (No 2) Bill, 2019, which brings the Centre's proposals concerning the Budget 2019-20 into effect, Rajya Sabha passed the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill and New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill on Thursday.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill Act, 2019 in the Rajya Sabha that seeks to make changes in the existing law of 1996. While moving the bill, he said that the government intends to make India a hub of domestic and international arbitration. The minister also moved the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019.
The minister said the amendment bill has been prepared on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered Srikrishna Committee, which held consultations with all stakeholders.
Stating that the bills would look at the establishment of the Arbitration Council of India headed by retired judges, he said a provision has been made for its timeframe. Six months would be allotted for claim and defence from the date the arbitrator receives the notice of appointment. Arbitration must be completed in 12 months.
The amendment bill will facilitate in achieving the goal of improving institutional arbitration by establishing an independent body to lay down standards, make the arbitration process more friendly and cost-effective, and ensure timely disposal of cases.
Trinamool Congress MPs staged a walkout in protest against the "draconian" proposed changes in arbitration laws. TMC's Sukhendu Sekhar Roy alleged that the "government is repeatedly bulldozing" parliamentary proceedings and has brought the bill without scrutiny by the Standing Committee. Ray also alleged that the proposed International Arbitration Centre will be totally controlled by the government and its independence and credibility will be compromised.
Congress leader Anand Sharma supported the bills, saying it is important to create an ecosystem to reassure investors for expeditious settlement of commercial disputes. He also said that there is room for improvement in so far as defining the scope of power of Arbitration Council, timeframe for dispute resolutions, procedures for facilitating appointment are concerned, and also pointed out the dearth of qualified arbitration professionals in India.
BJP member Ashwini Vaishnaw asked the government to make the Council totally independent and said "there should not be any government appointee". BJD's Prashant Nanda and JD(U)'s Ram Chandra Prasad Singh supported the Bill, while CPM's K Somaprasad demanded that the Chairman of the Arbitration Centre should be a Supreme Court or high court judge and not a political appointee.
Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani introduced the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019, that seeks to amend the existing POCSO Act of 2012. The Bill looks at enhancing punishment, including a provision for death penalty, for committing sexual crimes against children.
The earlier hours in the Upper House saw Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar talk about the International Court of Justice verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case delivered on Wednesday. Describing Jadhav's detention as "illegal", the minister said that the ICJ's judgment is not only a vindication for Jadhav, who was detained under "framed charges", but also for all those who believe in the rule of law.
Soon after Jaishankar's statement, Rajya Sabha proceedings were adjourned in the morning till noon, after Congress and Samajwadi Party members created an uproar and shouted slogans in the well of the House, protesting the Supreme Court ruling on the Karnataka issue and the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh.
In the Lok Sabha, members passed The Finance (No 2) Bill, 2019, which was tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier on Thursday. She said that the tax proposals in the bill are aimed at improving the ease of living and reducing pain of the citizens, adding that Budget 2019-20 proposals will promote Make In India and digital payment.
The minister did not relax the tax proposals with regards to Foreign Portfolio Investors, hike in customs duty on newsprint and TDS on withdrawals over Rs 1 crore from banks, which were the Opposition's demands. While moving the Bill, Sitharaman had said that apart from seven Acts related to indirect taxation being amended, the government would also be bringing changes to seven laws related to direct taxation.
The GST has five different amendments that would also make compliance easier for the MSME sector and eight Acts pertaining to financial markets, including Sebi Act, are being amended, she told the Lower House.
RSP MP NK Premachandran opposed the Bill, while an uproar was witnessed after Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said "Ambanis and Adanis are essential for the government". Roy criticised the lowered tax rate for corporates with turnover of Rs 400 crore when prices of diesel have been hiked. DMK's T Sumathi said she was "pained" by this "poor cousin of a budget" and raised the issue of a Rs 50 crore allocation to support the appointment of Hindi teachers in non-Hindi speaking states.
Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said there is no roadmap for achieving the target of USD 5 trillion economy. He referred to a mismatch in certain figures mentioned in the Economic Survey and the Budget, he said the several amendments to laws that are not related to finance are being proposed through the Finance Bill.
Before extending the duration of the House for two hours to begin the Zero Hour, Speaker Om Birla informed that Lok Sabha members discussed the General Budget for 17 hours, demands for grants for Railways for 13 hours, demands for grants for Road and Transport for 7.44 hours, demands for grants for the ministries of Rural Development and Agriculture for 10.36 hours and issues related to Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry for 4.14 hours.
- With inputs from PTI