It may seem like one but it is not an apocryphal story. On August 23, 1995, The Gazette of India informed that the Delhi Rent Act 1995, a law that aimed “to provide for the regulation of rents, repairs and maintenance and evictions” in the National Capital Region of Delhi, had received the assent of the President of India. The 46-page gazette dated the law “enacted in the 46th year of the Republic of India”.
The Act activated activists, and the notification, and thus implementation, of the law was stalled. It was a piquant situation. It was a law, but not yet the law. So, in 1997, the government decided to bring the Act into force. This led to the introduction of the Delhi Rent (Amendment) Bill 1997, which ran into 33-pages of clause-by-clause redefinition of definitions of the 1995 Act—for instance “deemed rent” was replaced with “rent payable”. The Bill was left pending. In 2012, it was decided to draft a new Bill to replace the 1995 law that was entered in the gazette but not notified, and the 1997 Bill, which was introduced but left pending for 15 years. On August 29 2013, the government introduced The Delhi Rent (Repeal) Bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha. It was dated “the sixty-fourth year of the Republic of India”.
On Monday, the government announced that the monsoon session of Parliament will start on July 18 and end on August 10. In the 69th year of the Republic of India, the Delhi Rent (Repeal) Bill 2013, meant to replace a law that was passed in the 46th year of the Republic of India, is on the pending list. Indeed there are 24 Bills from the Vajpayee and UPA era on the pending list.
Vijay Goel, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, revealed that there were 68 Bills pending in the Lok Sabha and 40 Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha—curiously, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha websites show 27 and 48 Bills as pending! Be that as it may, of the pending Bills, Goel defined 12 in Lok Sabha and nine in Rajya Sabha as “very important”.
While Goel did not specify which Bills were “very important”, there are six ordinances in force which need to be ratified. These include ordinances for the amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, law on commercial courts and appellate division of high courts and criminal law, the ordinances on fugitives and economic offenders, on commercial courts, homoeopathy central council and the National Sports University Bills.
And then there is the inescapable fact that there are critical Bills with economic, social and political implications piled up. Take the political cause list. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for a quota for the most backward within the quota for OBCs. The 123rd Constitutional Amendment bill to give the National Commission for Backward Classes constitutional status is pending since April 2017. Similarly, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to enable inclusion of excluded tribes is pending since December 2016.
Issues of life, liberty, dignity and ethical practices demand legal backing. The government promised to stop exploitation of women by the baby factories and bring order and regulation to the “fertility sector”. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill banning commercial surrogacy is pending since November 2016. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill passed by the Lok Sabha is mired in controversy. Every hour 16 persons are killed in road accidents. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill is in “process” and pending since August 2016. The Whistle Blower’s Protection Bill is pending since May 2015 and the Lokpal and Lok Ayuktas Bill since December 2014.
On the economic front, Bills crucial for investment, improving employment, ease of doing business and growth are pending—these include the Contract Labour Amendment Bill, Code of Wages Bill, the Factories (Amendment) Bill, the Chit Fund Bill, the Bill to set up an international arbitration centre in Delhi, the Specific Relief Bill. There is a tussle on between the government and the RBI on classification of NPAs in the power sector. One of the reasons for the rise in NPAs, expected to cross Rs 2.5 lakh crore, is bankruptcy of SEBs – and the Bill to reform distribution is pending since December 2014.
The unfinished agenda is long. Into the last year of the term, like a batsman in the slog overs of a T-20 match, the government faces a challenging run rate given that the session is only for 18 days. The budget session saw the government setting a target of 41 Bills and missing it by a wide margin—only two went through the gates of dharna politics. Political context is crucial for assessing do-ability. The parties are in election mode. Every conversation, whether it is classmates, bankers or politicos, tends to find space for the “duet question”. Will the Lok Sabha polls be early… followed by a pregnant pause… and then, what‘s your take on 2019. It could perhaps be dubbed as the dessert of all chinwags.
Popular buzz, in the WhatsApp universe and social discourse, has it that the Lok Sabha polls will be advanced to be held along with the Assembly polls to four states this winter. As always, there are believers, non-believers and agnostics—ayes, nays and could be. Regardless of counter-logic, and the enduring question about the certainty of the outcome, the buzz refuses to go.
And the withdrawal of the BJP from the J&K government is seen, even interpreted, as the white smoke signal from the conclave of the maestros. Consequentially, the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament has acquired the scent of the ‘last session’. It runs the risk of being a ‘campaign session’.