Updated: December 22, 2021 1:27:42 pm
Amid heavy protests by the Opposition over a number of issues like the suspension of 12 MPs from the Upper House, the Lakhimpur violence and the farmers’ demand for a legislation on MSP, the Winter Session of Parliament came to an end Wednesday. In the 18 sittings that it witnessed, the Winter Session that began on November 29 saw the passage of legislations like The Farm Laws Repeal Bill and the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill was introduced on the first day of the Winter Session and passed by both the Houses via voice votes without any discussion. The Bill sailed through amid Opposition demand for discussions over the delay in withdrawal of the laws given that farmer protests began more than a year ago and some demands, such as compensation for the kin of those who lost their lives, remained pending.
In a significant reform to the electoral laws of the country, the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that among other things, aims to link Aadhaar with the voter ID card. The Bill was opposed in both the Houses, with Opposition members sloganeering against it. Several Opposition MPs raised objections, stating that linking of Aadhaar will violate the fundamental right to privacy and lead to massive disenfranchisement.
The Houses also passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which amends the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and seeks to rectify a drafting “anomaly” created by a 2014 amendment to the parent legislation. The Bill, however, met with protests from the Opposition over “retrospective effect” to the amendments in a criminal law and misuse of the Act.
Two Bills to extend the tenure of the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to a maximum of five years from the earlier minimum period of two years were also passed in Parliament. While the Opposition had questioned the need for the extension of tenure for these positions, the Bills — Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Bill 2021 and The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill 2021 — were passed in Rajya Sabha via voice note in the absence of the Opposition, which had walked out over the suspension of the 12 MPs.
The discussion over High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, saw a debate over critical issues of the judiciary in the country. The Bill, passed by both the Houses, seeks to bring clarity on the date of eligibility of a retired judge to receive additional quantum of pension. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the judiciary had failed to stem the tide of “militant majoritarianism”. “The judiciary’s inaction almost always favours those in power. By its continued inaction, the court has not only allowed the government’s sins against citizens to go unpunished, but led some critics to ask whether the Supreme Court should also be considered an accomplice to the violation of rights granted by the Constitution,” he said.
Two key Bills on the reproductive rights of women were passed in Parliament. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020, passed by both Houses, makes provisions for the safe and ethical practice of assisted reproductive technology (ART) services in the country. However, Opposition members in Lok Sabha attacked the government for excluding live-in couples, single men and the LGBTQ community from the ambit of the Bill.
Similarly, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, which earlier passed by the Lok Sabha, was referred to a Select Committee by the Rajya Sabha. The Lower House approved the amendments suggested by the panel on December 17.
Besides, another important legislature, the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to raise the age of legal marriage for women from 18 to 21, was introduced in Lok Sabha a day before its adjournment. The Bill which proposes amendments to the 2006 law was sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for further discussion.
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