Updated: March 5, 2015 1:07:27 am
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed by voice vote two crucial bills — the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill — which will replace ordinances brought in by the BJP-led government. The two bills, particularly the insurance bill, will now face a tough test in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP lacks the numbers.
Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, who piloted the insurance bill in Lok Sabha, told reporters that the government may go in for a joint session of Parliament if the bill is stalled in the upper house. “If insurance bill is defeated in the Rajya Sabha… it will open an opportunity for a joint session of Parliament,” he said.
While the insurance bill provides for raising foreign investment cap from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and imprisonment of up to 10 years for selling policies without registration with regulator IRDA, the coal bill allows e-auction of coal blocks. The Supreme Court had last year cancelled allocation of 204 coal blocks. Both bills were passed after the House voted out amendments moved by opposition members. The Congress opposed both bills, despite its government having piloted the original 2008 version of the insurance bill.
The discussion on the insurance bill witnessed turbulence when the opposition demanded an apology from Sinha for his “arrogant” remarks. Offering his apology, Sinha said he had not intention to “disrespect anyone”.
Replying to the debate, Sinha justified the decision to raise the cap and said greater FDI was required to provide more coverage.
Some members like Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi raised objections about the bill being discussed in Lok Sabha while it was pending in Rajya Sabha. Party leader Shashi Tharoor said, “We have no problem with the principle of FDI in insurance… But we are unable to support the bill in the form it has been presented to the House.”
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Replying to the debate on the coal bill, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said its passage would ensure “transparent” process of auctioning of coal blocks. Explaining the need for the legislation, he said if the bill was not passed, the coal sector would face a crisis. Defending the ordinance, he said, “Economic activity would have been impacted (after the SC cancelled the allocations). It was very essential that the ordinances be brought so that coal production continues.”
The bill was passed by voice vote after CPM leader Badruddoza Khan’s amendments were voted out following a division sought by him.
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