Follow Us:

Week in Parliament

Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came out with flying colours while replying to Opposition attempts to raise doubts over Government claims.

DEEPAK RAZDAN | New Delhi |

Considering the tough agenda before Parliament in its Budget Session, which concluded last week, the Government had an easy victory over the Opposition on all major issues.

Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came out with flying colours while replying to Opposition attempts to raise doubts over Government claims.

The main business was the Union Budget, and Appropriaton and Finance Bills, authorizing the Government its expenditure during 2022-23. Sitharaman responded to all issues raised by the Opposition, including by a veteran like P Chidambaram of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha.

Details given by her on GST collections, the GDP growth rate and capital expenditure silenced the Opposition.

The latest data given by her on indirect tax collections showed it was a Government working hard on its responsibilities and keeping a track of latest inputs.

The Finance Minister’s explanation on the rising petroleum prices too left the Opposition speechless, for such were her revelations. It was not just the international situation impacted by the Ukraine war, but there were financial commitments inherited from the UPA time.

The UPA Government, she disclosed, had raised oil bonds worth Rs 2 lakh crore to save consumers from price-rise then. The redemption of the bonds fell upon the Modi Government and this meant a heavy financial burden, which had to be met somehow, she said.

The Opposition attack on the Government on the issue lost its sting thereafter. The Finance Minister was equally combative while defending the Chartered Accountants, the Cost and Works Accountants and the Company Secretaries (Amendment) Bill.

She said the Opposition’s charge that the Government wanted to dilute the autonomy of professional bodies governing the three professions was baseless.

The Bill had the limited purpose of strengthening the disciplinary provisions in the existing law. In spite of India’s high international standing in the field of accountancy, there were cases of operation of shell companies, and they had to be adequately addressed.

On finance subjects, the Opposition had a grievance that a discussion totally devoted to price-rise was not allowed, and this led to adjournments in the Rajya Sabha.

The Home Minister gave powerful replies to debates on the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, and the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Shah said the Opposition was concerned over the privacy and human rights of persons, who could be subjected to the collection of greater personal details under the new criminal identification law.

The Opposition had no worry about the low conviction rate of criminals in the country, he said. For most major crimes like murder, dacoity, robbery, and rape, the conviction rate was 40 per cent or lower.

A major reason for this was the lack of irrefutable evidence sought by courts in criminal cases. The new law will permit investigating agencies to collect greater personal details of criminals and suspects, like palm prints, iris and retina scan, physical and biological samples, and their analysis, besides fingerprints and footprints.

Collecting this evidence was now possible with advancements in science and technology and it was being done all over the world with great advantage.

The MPs should have expressed some concern for the victims of crimes and their relatives, and the pain they suffered while waiting for justice.

Responding to MPs who said the law could be unjustly used against political detenu, the Home Minister said he would make effort to see that Rules under the law leave out political protesters, but such concession could not be shown to political persons found involved in criminal cases.

The debate saw an interesting face-off between lawyers Chidambaram and Mahesh Jethmalani (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha. Reminding the House of how his late father noted jurist Ram Jethmalani used to speak on legal matters with rare authority, Jethmalani explained why the new law was needed.

He said Chidambaram was worried about the possible misuse of the law. The fear was not unfounded, he said because there was a gross misuse of law against political detenu under the Congress rule during the Emergency.

To those questioning the competence of the House to pass a Bill like the Delhi Municipal Corporation Amendment Bill, the Home Minister said Delhi was a Union Territory and Article 239AA of the Constitution empowered the Centre to make laws about Delhi.

He said a unified municipal corporation would be financially viable and serve the city far better.