Winter session of parliament: Key bills to be discussed include the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which the government was unable to pass in its previous tenure
The winter session of parliament, which will run till December 13, starts today amid concerns over the slowing economy, rising unemployment, farmers’ distress and the continued detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. It also takes place against the backdrop of an unstable political situation in Maharashtra, where the ruling BJP has fallen out with long-time ally Shiv Sena and looks set to be unseated by an unlikely Sena-Congress-NCP alliance. Among the key bills to be discussed this session is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which the government was unable to pass in its previous tenure. This will be a landmark session – the 250th sitting of the Rajya Sabha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before the start of the winter session of parliament today, said he hoped for “frank discussions on all matters” and called on all parties to “contribute in a positive and proactive way, as they did in the previous session”.
- Nearly 50 bills are scheduled to be presented in this session of parliament, including the crucial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan if they fled their respective countries due to religious persecution. The bill met with heavy resistance when it was last in parliament, with the opposition criticising it as discriminatory on religious grounds.
- Last time the bill stalled in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP-led NDA is in a minority. Its passage through the Upper House will be keenly observed this time, given that last week the Shiv Sena – the BJP’s oldest ally – shifted to the opposition benches and is likely to make life difficult for PM Modi’s party after a breakdown in relations over government formation in Maharashtra.
- This will be the first parliament session since state polls in Maharashtra and Haryana. The BJP was expected to win both states comfortably but needed Dushyant Chautala’s JJP to form the government in Haryana and is likely to lose Maharashtra to an unexpected alliance of the Sena and opposition parties NCP and the Congress.
- Also listed for discussion in this session is The Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments Bill, which aims to protect doctors and healthcare personnel from violence. Clashes between doctors and patients have made headlines in recent months, with the mob killing of a 73-year-old medical practitioner at a tea estate Assam in September one such example.
- Other key bills which will be tabled are The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, The Pesticides Management Bill, The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill and The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill.
- In addition, a total of 10 bills are pending in the Rajya Sabha, including one to protect the rights of transgendered persons and amendments to The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 2019, which lists the tribal communities to be included.
- Earlier this month, Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad had said that opposition parties planned to hold a joint protest on issues such as economic slowdown, farm distress and unemployment during the parliament session.
- The 250th session of the Rajya Sabha will include a discussion on ‘Role of the Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity”, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said on Sunday. Mr Naidu, who expressed concern over absentee members when parliament is in session, urged all members to be prompt and attend parliament every day.
- In the previous session of parliament, held soon after PM Modi steered the BJP to a massive win in national elections, the government passed three key bills – one to withdraw special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 (and re-organise the former state into two Union Territories), another to amend the National Investigation Agency Bill, and a third to make ‘triple talaq’ – the practice of Muslim men uttering “talaq” thrice to get a divorce – became a punishable offence.
- The Winter Session of parliament will see a total of 20 sittings spread over 26 days; this includes four Private Members’ days. A joint sitting of both houses of parliament will be held in the Central Hall on November 26 to mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly.