Winter Session of Parliament begins today, Citizenship Bill, Transgender Persons Bill on agenda

The Winter Session of Parliament will be held till December 13 which the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has communicated to the secretariats of both Houses. This session will provide a total of 20 sittings spread over 26 days, including four Private Members' days.

Winter Session of Parliament begins today, Citizenship Bill, Transgender Persons Bill on agenda

The Winter Session of Parliament begins on Monday and many important bills, including the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, are scheduled to be tabled. The government is also likely to bring bills to replace two ordinances on corporate tax rate cuts and ban on e-cigarettes. 

This session will be held till December 13 which the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has communicated to the secretariats of both Houses. This session will provide a total of 20 sittings spread over 26 days, including four Private Members' days.

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Among other bills expected to be taken up are those on regularizing unauthorised colonies in Delhi and punishment for assault on doctors. 

On day one of the winter session, the government is all set to press for the passage of Chit Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to facilitate orderly growth of the chit fund sector and removal of bottlenecks being faced by the industry to enable greater financial access to people. The Bill will put in place a mechanism to ensure transparency in chit fund schemes and protect subscribers.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will move the Bill to amend the Chit Funds Act, 1982, for its consideration and passing as it was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 5 during the Monsoon Session. The Bill which reduces the regulatory or compliance burden of registered chit funds industry was approved by the Union Cabinet in July for its introduction in Parliament.

The Bill seeks to achieve insertion of the words "fraternity fund", "Rotating Savings and Credit Institution" in clause (b) of section 2 which defines "chit" and also in section 11, to signify its inherent nature and distinguish its working from "prize chits" which are banned under a separate legislation. It proposes to substitute the expressions "gross chit amount", "share of discount" and "net chit amount" for the expressions "chit amount", "dividend" and "prize amount" respectively in the Act, in order to remove confusion with respect to illegal prize chits.

The Bill seeks to revise the prescribed ceiling of aggregate chit amount from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh for individuals and from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 18 lakh for firms, which have not been revised since 2001.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that the government would work together with all political parties in a constructive manner to address pending legislation as well as to frame policy solutions for wide-ranging issues, at an all-party meeting ahead of the winter session of Parliament. PM Modi has expressed hope that "constructive engagement" between the treasury and opposition benches will make the present session productive. Leaders from all major political parties were present on the occasion when Modi discussed the upcoming session of the house.

PM Modi observed the winter session of the Parliament will be a special occasion as it will mark the 250th session of the Rajya Sabha, soon after attending the meeting here on Sunday. He emphasised that the 250th session of Rajya Sabha provided "a unique opportunity for highlighting the unique strengths of the Indian Parliament as well as the Indian Constitution, in providing an overarching framework of governance institutions for a diverse country like India."

This will be the second session of Parliament since Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to office with a bigger majority for the second successive term.

Let's take a look at the bills that the government will take up during the Winter Session: 

Taxation Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019: The Taxation Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 introduces important fiscal reliefs for domestic companies with an aim to boost the economy and promote investment. Reduction in corporate tax rates, minimum alternate tax and withdrawal of enhanced surcharge for domestic companies are some of the key changes introduced.

The Government has amended the income tax rates applicable to domestic companies through the promulgation of the Taxation Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 (Ordinance) on September 20, 2019. The Ordinance allows existing domestic companies and new domestic manufacturing companies (set up and registered on or after 1 October 2019 and commencing manufacturing on or before 31 March 2023) to opt for concessional tax rates of 22% and 15% respectively with effect from assessment year (AY) 2020-21. The effective tax rate including applicable surcharge and cess for existing domestic companies and new domestic manufacturing companies opting for the concessional rates will be 25.17% and 17.16% respectively. 

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: The Central government is likely to push for passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.

The bill is a key BJP plank which is aimed at granting nationality to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries. There has been strong opposition to the bill in Assam and other northeastern states.

Personal Data Protection Bill: The Personal Data Protection Bill deals with handling and processing of consumer data by corporate entities while introducing restrictions and penalties. The proposals are based on a report submitted by Justice B.N. Srikrishna in July 2018. The draft Bill has gone through two updates based on inputs received from the industry.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill: The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19 this year by Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thaawarchand Gehlot, and passed by the Lower House on August 5.

The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as 'kinnar' and 'hijra'.

The Bill prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in any way, including education, employment, healthcare, right to reside among others. Prohibition of e-cigarettes Bill: The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, would replace an Ordinance that was promulgated in September 2019.

The Ordinance prohibits the manufacture, trade, and advertisement of e-cigarettes in India. Any person who contravenes these provisions will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both. No person is allowed to use any place for the storage of any stock of e-cigarettes. If any person stores any stock of e-cigarettes, he will be punishable with an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 50,000, or both.

Some of the other important bills to come up are: 

The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019, which amalgamates the Trade Unions Act, 1926, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to replace an ordinance; The Companies (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 — to amend the Companies Act, 2013 to decriminalise certain offences and facilitate ease of doing business; the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 facilitating orderly development of the chit fund industry introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2019.

National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill: The others are the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019, which repeals the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970, and sets up a National Commission to regulate the education and practice of Indian systems of Medicine. It was introduced January 7, 2019, in Rajya Sabha.

Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill: Also included are the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 prohibiting commercial surrogacy; the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019. It removes the president of the Indian National Congress as a trustee and empowers the central government to remove nominated members.

With inputs from agencies