Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the all-party meeting, chaired by Defence Minister and Lok Sabha Deputy Leader Rajnath Singh, was attended by 30 leaders from 23 parties. The session will run for 19 days and have 15 sittings.
The Narendra Modi government has released the tentative agenda of the five-day special session of Parliament starting from Monday, September 18. According to the government notification, five bills have been listed for consideration and passing in the special session.
Besides, a discussion on the “Parliamentary Journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings” will also take place in both the houses.
Earlier this month, the government had announced that a five-day special session of Parliament will be convened from September 18-22. However, the government didn’t reveal what would be the agenda of the special session.
The Opposition questioned government’s intentions behind its decision to “hide” the agenda. This also led to speculations that the Centre is planning to dissolve the Parliament and announce early elections as part of its “one nation, one election” move. The other speculated items were Uniform Civil Code and Women’s Reservation bill.
The speculations were fueled further after it announced formation of a committee under former President Ram Nath Kovind to look into possibilities of simultaneous polls.
Even after the announcement of the agenda, the Opposition is sceptical of government’s intentions and reading between the lines. Reacting to the agenda, Trinmool Congress said that the government may not have revealed all as a line in the notification reads – “…this is not the exhaustive agenda.”
Meanwhile, an all-party meeting has been called on September 17 to discuss the business of the special session.
The business and the bills
The bills which will be taken up during the special session are – the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, The Repealing and Amending Bill 2022 and the Post Office Bill.
Of the five, the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill is the most crucial as well as opposed by the Opposition parties.
The Bill seeks to constitute a three-member committee to appoint the members of the Election Commission of India. The new committee will have the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM. This will directly clash with the Supreme Court’s ruling in March this year. The top court ruling said that Election Commissioners must be picked by a high-power committee of the PM, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The Bill also seeks to revise the salary structure of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners. The government is planning to bring their salary and allowances at par with that of a Cabinet secretary.
Currently, they get salary, allowances and additional post retirement perks at par with that of a Supreme Court judge. Experts believe if the Bill is passed the authority of the CEC and the two ECs will carry the same weightage as that of a Cabinet Secretary and could find it hard to check on the poll-related violations of a Cabinet Minister, who will become a rank superior to them.