NEW DELHI: Criticising the government for using the Finance Bill to amend several other legislations, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday stressed the government should rather bring separate amendments for making changes in laws, including the LIC Act.
Participating in the debate on the Finance Bill, 2021 in the Rajya Sabha, Ramesh wanted to know why the route of the Finance Bill, which is a money bill, was being taken by the government for amending various Acts, including important legislation on public sector insurance behemoth LIC.
"Finance Act amended 19 Acts passed by Parliament in 2017-18. I challenged it in the Supreme Court. In 2019, the then CJI, who is now a member of the Rajya Sabha, upheld my petition and rejected the amendments," the former minister said.
To support his argument, he said amendments were made in the LIC Act, Central Tax, Benami Act, SEBI Act, Debt Recovery Act, the IDBI Act, among others, in the Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have a majority, through the money bill route.
"When the government did not have a majority in Upper House, this route of Finance Act is resorted," Ramesh said.
As per the Constitution, a money bill may only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, which can pass it by a simple majority of all members present and voting.
Following this, it may be sent to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations, which the Lok Sabha may reject if it chooses to.
Referring to the LIC Act, which was passed in 1956 by both Houses of Parliament, he said far-reaching amendments were being done in the legislation without discussion and debates.
"There are 49 sections in the Act. Twenty-seven of the 49 sections are being amended now through the Finance Bill. No debate, no discussion, no scrutiny by standing or select committee. Why such a route is being taken for such an important Act?" he asked.
He said if one looks at the LIC logo 'Yogakshemam Vahamyaham' that is engraved on its Nariman Point building, it says "I am provider of your securities and I will fulfil those needs", which is derived from chapter nine of the Bhagwad Gita but the government is endangering its motto.
Ramesh said LIC was set up in wake of large irregularities in the insurance sector and there was a certain social logic behind its nationalisation, adding that "LIC has been the bulwark for government programmes."
He questioned what the government will do when foreign firms will own part of LIC, which is going to be a listed company.
"We can't stop these amendments as these are part of Finance Bill. This bill may pass, your IPO may be there," Ramesh said.
Asserting that India requires many more companies like LIC, he said: "Why don't you make it mandatory that 10 per cent is reserved for policyholders? Please amend the Act by bringing amendments, not through Finance Bill."
LIC plays a significant role, he said, and added that everyone from Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had gone to LIC to fund infra projects.
He said the government should ensure the basic social obligation of LIC and that its utility is not weakened or jeopardised.
The Congress MP cautioned that amendments to the LIC Act should not be done in haste and without debate.