Budget session of Par ends with fewer disruptions, more debate

New Delhi, Aug 14: The Budget session of Parliament, the first of the Narendra Modi government, ended today reflecting the changed political reality with fewer disruptions and adjournments, and more debates and discussions unlike in the recent past. The stark contrast between the functioning of the new Lok Sabha and the earlier one could be gauged from the fact that this time the House ran for 167 hours as against 19 hours and 36 minutes during the budget session of 2013. Both, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die marking completion of the budget session.

Besides the maiden General Budget and the Railway Budget of the BJP-led NDA coalition, the highlights of the month-long session was the passage of the landmark National Judicial Appointments Commission bill and the SEBI bill. Several other bills were passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha including the one seeking to clear legal hurdles in the appointment of former TRAI chief Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Parliament also cleared the budget for Delhi, which is currently under President’s rule. In the Lok Sabha, a total of 13 bills were passed. Before the passage of the Finance Bill, the Lok Sabha scrutinised the demands for grants of four ministries unlike in the recent years where the sessions were marred by disruptions. While Lok Sabha ran for 167 hours, the Rajya worked for 142 hours spread over 27 days. Although the Lok Sabha lost about 14 hours due to disruptions but it more than made up by sitting extra for 28 hours and 10 minutes.

In Rajya Sabha 34 hours were lost due to interruptions and adjournments but it was made up by late sittings and skipping lunch recess accounting for 38 hours. There have been several attempts to overturn the 20-year-old collegium system in the past, including by the previous NDA and UPA governments. The effort finally fructified on the last day of the first working session of Parliament under the new government.

To bring Opposition on board, government had yesterday dropped a controversial provision that required unanimity in recommendation if President seeks reconsideration. The amendment dropped the provision requiring unanimity in the Commission’s recommendation if President had referred the earlier recommendation back to the collegium for reconsideration. The Constitution amendment bill will grant Constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition.

The NJAC Bill, passed along with the statute amendment bill, lays down the procedure to be adopted by the commission for elevation of Supreme Court judges and transfer and posting of Chief Justices and other judges of the 24 High Courts. Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body.

In his intervention, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, a noted lawyer, said since there is a marginal role of the executive in the current system, “the effort is now to restore what is the spirit of the original Constitution” with checks and balances in place. Prasad rejected the opposition charge that the measure was being brought in haste, saying the exercise has been going on for two decades during which several committees have recommended for changing the collegium system.

“Why is Parliament wary of using its powers? Parliament must have full trust in the ability of Parliament to pass the law,” he said. Prasad said the power of appointing a judge rests with the President of India. “This House respects the independence of the judiciary and this House also respects the power of Parliament,” he said.