Opposition wants select panel scrutiny of key Bills

In a show of strength, Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha told the government that they wanted seven key legislation, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill. 2019, and the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, to be sent to a Select Committee of Parliament for further scrutiny.

All three Bills have been cleared by the Lok Sabha in the current session of Parliament.

The decision to insist on scrutiny of the Bills came at a meeting of floor leaders of Opposition parties in the Upper House on Wednesday. Sources said Opposition leaders were also working on a joint letter that would oppose the way the two Houses of Parliament were being run and the stifling of their voices. “A draft has been prepared and we are in the process of getting signatures from everyone,” a senior Opposition leader said.

In disarray after the results of the general election in May, the Opposition parties have regrouped in the last few days of the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha. On Tuesday, they held two meetings. Sources said Opposition MPs would meet again on Thursday to formulate a coordinated strategy for the Rajya Sabha, where they have the numbers to counter the government.

On Wednesday, a first round of meetings was called by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. It was attended by MPs from the DMK, the NCP, the BSP and the two Left parties among others.

Ms. Gandhi, it is learnt, urged the opposition to ensure better floor coordination. She also said the opposition should have a joint strategy for both Houses.

The seven Bills that the opposition has demanded be sent to a standing committee are the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019; Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Code Wages Bill, 2019; Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2019; Inter State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019; DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019.

Pointing out that not a single Bill has gone to a select or a standing committee in this session, which has had highest productivity so far, clearing 15 Bills, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “In every session more or less, Bills go to the standing committee but this is the first session where not a single legislation has gone for scrutiny.”

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien said the Opposition is not necessarily opposed to all the Bills but wants to improve the process.

He said, “As Opposition parties, we have informally made a list of seven such Bills; not all, but of seven such Bills, which have had no parliamentary scrutiny either through a Select Committee or the Parliamentary Standing Committee.”

Change of strategy

The Opposition that united on the issue of seeking a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement on Kashmir on Tuesday, and walked out of both Houses of Parliament, decided to tweak its strategy on Wednesday.

“We weighed both the issues, the Trump statement and the lack of Parliamentary scrutiny. It was felt that the latter is of greater consequence so for now we are keeping our demand for clarification from PM aside,” a senior Opposition leader said.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 5:09:51 PM |

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