The squalling in Parliament is adversely affecting not just the legislation to finally install the much-delayed goods and services tax regime but also a host of other bills which have received far less public attention.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2015, which received the cabinet nod on Wednesday, is an example of a legislative measure that promises to radically reform a crucial sector. The bill is scheduled to be presented in the Rajya Sabha in the ongoing winter session, but it is unlikely to be taken up if the opposition parties, especially the Congress, continue to hold up business. On the GST bill, the Congress has staked out a position that is different on at least three counts from that taken by the ruling BJP, but there is more convergence on the real estate regulator bill. The latest version of the real estate bill, based on the report of a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, which also had Congress representation, incorporates several changes demanded by the opposition parties.
The real estate regulator bill is expected to qualitatively enhance consumer protection in a sector that has long had a lopsided builder-buyer equation. It aims at establishing a Real Estate Regulatory Authority in states and Union territories to monitor real estate transactions. The objective is to institutionalise transparency and accountability, boost consumer confidence, and promote timely execution and professionalism in the sector while making it easier to access capital and financial markets. It will cover both residential and commercial projects. The bill stipulates mandatory disclosure of all registered projects, including details of the promoter, layout plan and the statuses of approvals. The cabinet-approved version redresses several weaknesses of the previous draft that had received the Lok Sabha’s nod — crucial changes include the bringing in of commercial projects as well as real estate agents in the ambit of the bill.
In early 2014, a Congress-led government in Maharashtra became the first state government to frame a law to regulate and develop the housing sector. Today, the party stands in the way of a similar reform at the national level. The real estate bill may not be as eye-catching as the GST bill, but it also promises to bring about much-needed change. Political parties like the Congress and the BJD, therefore, who were at the forefront of stalling the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, should introspect.