Parliament Updates: Lok Sabha demands an apology from Congress MPs for behaviour towards Smriti Irani; Lower House adjourned for the day

FP Staff

Parliament LATEST updates: Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day on Friday following persistent demands by members of the BJP and some other parties for an apology by two Congress MPs, accused of adopting a "threatening position" towards Union minister Smriti Irani when she was speaking on the Unnao issue.

The government sought an apology from two Lok Sabha members of the Congress for their "threatening position" towards Union Minister Smriti Irani, when she was speaking on the Unnao rape issue in the House, post-lunch-break on Friday. Ruling BJP members accused Congress MPs Dean Kuriakose and TN Prathapan of charging towards Irani when she was speaking in the House. But both accused Congress MPs fail to turn up post-lunch break.

Pralhad Joshi, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, says Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury should ask two Opposition MPs to apologise for taking a threatening demeanour towards Smriti Irani. TN Prathapan's walked to the Well 'aggressively' while shouting something at Irani. Chowdhury claims that since he was not present in the House at the time, he cannot commit to procuring the apology, to which Meenakshi Lekhi suggests that he should discuss the matter with the two MPs concerned and further adjourned the House till 2:30 pm.

Uproar in Lok Sabha intensifies after BJP MP Smriti Irani hits back at the Opposition for politicising rape cases. "Women safety and respect should not be given communal colour. A member used Telengana and Unnao incidents but selectively forgot Malda. Rape has been used as a political weapon in the West Bengal." she said. As Opposition MPs continued to shout slogans against her remarks, Irani reiterated that whatever happened in Telegana and Unnao were "shameful and accused should be hanged" but stated that these incidents should not be used for "doing politics".

As uproar continues in Lok Sabha over women safetly in Lower House. Congress leader  Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury cited the recent Unnao victim who has 95 percent burns. "What is going on in the country? On one hand there is a Lord Ram temple being built and on the other hand Sita Maiya is being set ablaze. How are criminals feeling so emboldened?" he questioned.

BJP MP Maneka Gandhi condemned the Telangana encounter on Friday morning. "Jo bhi hua hai bohot bhayanak hua hai is desh ke liye, (whatever happened, it was horrific for the country) you cannot kill people because you want to. You cannot take law in your hands, they(accused) would have been hanged by Court anyhow," she said. All four accused in the rape-and-murder case of a 26-year-old woman veterinarian near Hyderabad last month were killed in an exchange of fire with police on Friday morning, police said. The incident took place around 3.30 am to 5 am when the accused were taken to the site of the offence for the reconstruction of the scene of the crime as part of the investigation, a senior police official said.

Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan on Friday while entering the Parliament told reporters, "Der aaye, durust aaye...der aaye, bohot der aaye" when asked about the accused in the rape and murder of the woman veterinarian in Telangana killed in an encounter. All four accused in the rape-and-murder case of a 25-year-old woman veterinarian near Hyderabad last month were killed in an exchange of fire with police on Friday morning, police said. The incident took place around 6.30 am when the accused were taken to the site of the offence for the reconstruction of the scene of the crime as part of the investigation, a senior police official said.

Congress MP Madhusudan Mistry has given zero hour notice in Rajya Sabha over 'non release of MPLAD funds for 2019-20 on Friday reports >ANI. Shiv Sena MP Rajkumar Dhoot is to introduce a bunch of bills in the House of Elders. He is to introduce The Mangrove Forests (Special Provisions) Bill, 2019 which seeks to provide for the protection, development and afforestation of Mangroves by establishing a National Board for development of Mangrove forests in the coastal areas of the country.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will move the International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha on Friday. The Bill provides for the establishment of an Authority to develop and regulate the financial services market in the International Financial Services Centres in India. Home minister Amit Shah is also likely to further move The Arms (Amendment) Bill 2019 in Lok Sabha. This bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Shah on 29 November 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Arms Act, 1959. It seeks to decrease the number of licensed firearms allowed per person and increase penalties for certain offences under the Act. It also introduces new categories of offences

The Parliament is likely to take up the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which got a nod from the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. Additionally, the House of People will also hold a discussion on crop losses all over the country and the resultant impact on farmers. Among the list of issues expected to be raised during the Question Hour is the construction of national highways, bringing in the National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme, upgradation of state highways to national highways, per capita availability of water and flood management programmes.

Shiv Sena MP Rajkumar Dhoot is to introduce a bunch of bills in the House of Elders. He is to introduce The Mangrove Forests (Special Provisions) Bill, 2019 which seeks to provide for the protection, development and afforestation of Mangroves which are essential natural barriers against rising tides of various natures of vengeful sea when it roars ashore, by establishing a National Board for development of Mangrove forests in the coastal areas of the country, proper use of dry wood of Mangroves etc. He will also introduced a bill to provide for the protection and rehabilitation of victims of floods which may be caused by heavy rains, cloudbursts, cyclones, breached bunds of dams, reservoirs.

Meanwhile in Rajya Sabha, the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is to move for further discussion by MP Subbarami Reddy. This seeks to provide for nationalisation of inter-State rivers for the purpose of equitable distribution of river waters among the states.

The 17th edition of the two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) began on Friday in New Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering the inaugural address

Twelve opposition parties, including the Congress, the TMC and the Left, held a meeting on Thursday and decided on an eight-point agenda to counter the BJP on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which is likely to be tabled in Parliament next week, sources said.

The meeting of senior Rajya Sabha members of opposition parties such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, CPI and CPI(M), was held in Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad's chamber. The leaders met twice during the day to firm up the opposition strategy on the bill, they said.

The eight-point agenda, that the opposition parties will put before the people in the next five days, states that the bill is against everything the country's founding fathers envisioned and it lays down multiple grounds for citizenship for one country, sources said.

"The bill uses the Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit to set different grounds for citizenship. Just four months ago the government talked about one nation, one tax, one election, one law," a source said elaborating on the eight points the opposition parties agreed upon.

They also agreed that the bill is anti-tribal, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and CAB are not separate but hyphenated, the NRC was botched up in Assam, the government should not distract from the "mess" the economy is in, and the entire opposition will get its MPs, MLAs, councillors to spread this narrative against the bill in their areas, sources said.

Congress sources said party chief Sonia Gandhi will discuss with senior party leaders and like-minded parties to give shape to her party's response to the bill.

Parliament on Thursday approved the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that replaces an ordinance promulgated to cut the base corporate tax rate, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stating that mining companies, software developers and book printers will not be eligible for the lower 15 per cent rate available for new manufacturing companies.

Lok Sabha had earlier this week passed the bill and the Upper House returned it on Thursday without making any changes.

Replying to a debate on the legislation, Sitharaman said a negative list of activities that do not constitute manufacturing has been created and will not be eligible for the lower 15 per cent tax rate for manufacturing firms that are set up after October 1 and that begin operations by 2023.

The negative list includes the development of computer software in any form or in any media, mining, conversion of marble blocks or similar items into slabs, bottling of gas into cylinder, the printing of books or production of a cinematograph film.

Sitharaman had on September 20 announced the lowering of the base corporate tax rate to 22 per cent from 30 per cent for companies that do not seek exemptions, and reduced the rate for new manufacturing companies to 15 per cent from 25 per cent.

Including surcharges and cesses (levies to raise funds for specific purposes), the effective corporate tax rate will drop by nearly 10 percentage points to 25.2 per cent for corporates in general and 17.01 per cent for new manufacturing companies.

The corporate tax cut followed other measures by the government to prop up slowing GDP growth adopted since the May general elections. These include efforts to reduce red tape and boost foreign direct investment (FDI), and plans to consolidate the state-owned banks.

The finance minister said the reduction in corporate tax was done to make India an attractive destination for firms looking to invest outside of the US and China following their trade tensions.

A lower rate of 15 per cent was offered for new manufacturing units to draw new investment, thus reviving economic activity and creating jobs, she said.

Sitharaman also promised to continue the rollout of reforms to boost the economy.

GDP growth rate in July-September slowed to a six-year low of 4.5 per cent on a slump in manufacturing and drop in consumer demand.

On demands by MPs for reducing personal income tax to provide more money in the hands of people, thereby boosting consumption, she listed out the rebates and reliefs offered during the previous five years of the Modi government but did not commit to further cuts.

She also countered the narrative of a slowdown in private consumption, saying the share of consumption in gross domestic product (GDP) rose from 56.2 per cent during 2009-2014 to 59 per cent in the first five years of the Modi government.

In the first half of 2019-20 fiscal, it was 58.5 per cent, still higher than during UPA-II, she said.

Justifying rollback of higher surcharge on foreign portfolio investors that was introduced in her maiden Budget, she said fringe benefits tax and banking transaction tax was introduced in 2005 but rolled back in 2009 and 2008 respectively.

During the debate, Congress member Jairam Ramesh attacked the corporate tax reduction as a curtain-raiser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston.

"The changes were welcomed. But the timing was quite extraordinary. Two days later there was a Howdy Modi in Houston. Prime Minister always likes to go on a foreign trip accompanied by major policy announcements and I think what happened on September 20, 2019, was the curtain-raiser for the event to follow the event in Houston," he said.

While BJP members including GVL Narasimha Rao said the bill would help the Indian economy and boost the growth rate, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray of the Trinamool Congress doubted it saying rural spending has slid after four decades and there is a decline in consumer expenditure.

KK Ragesh of CPI-M termed the cut as a "scandal" while Samajwadi Party's Ravi Prakash Verma said that the economy was in "panic stage".

Responding to the members, Sitharaman said the Prime Minister has taken one initiative after another seeing the developing situation and the government did not wait for the next Budget to announce measures including tax cuts.

She said many MNCs want to shift their base from China in view of the Sino-US trade war and that is the subtext of the government's decision.

Stating that the government policy was to phase out exemptions and reduce tax rates, she said the corporate tax cut would also benefit small and medium enterprises.

Responding to the members' criticism on rollback of Budget proposals, the finance minister said "rollbacks are not wrong per se" and cited the same done during the UPA regime.

Defending taking the ordinance route and not waiting for two months for the next Parliament session for making changes, she said the previous Congress-led UPA had promulgated 61 ordinances in its 10-year rule, including 16 on finance-related matters.

She also attacked the UPA for leaving unpaid bills for the new government in 2014, including Rs 1.4 lakh crore in dues to oil firms.

Sitharaman also said she has asked income tax officials not to harass taxpayers and the department has introduced faceless assessment.

However, she said the government would not spare tax evaders and defaulters.

Also See: Winter Session of Parliament: RS approves Taxation (Amendment) Bill; Nirmala Sitharaman says 'good reforms' to boost economy will continue

Parliament's Winter Session: LS adjourns after BJP demands apology from Congress MPs over 'threatening behaviour' towards Smriti Irani

Parliament Winter Session: Citizenship Bill to be taken up by LS amid Oppn criticism, RS passes law to regularise unauthorised Delhi colonies

Read more on Politics by Firstpost.