Insurance Bill introduced in LS amid opposition

RSTV Bureau

india_parliamentA key economic reform bill, providing for raising the FDI cap in insurance sector to 49 per cent, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Tuesday amid stiff opposition by Left and TMC.

The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015, seeks to replace an ordinance issued by the government earlier, which had come under sharp attack from various quarters.

The bill seeks to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 and the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act 1972 and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999.

It provides for raising FDI cap in insurance sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

The bill, which has been pending for long, was introduced by Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha after the Division of Votes, pushed for by Left and TMC. 131 votes were polled in favour and 45 against.

Left and TMC members contended that the House has no legislative competence as similar bill is pending in the Upper House.

The bill is pending in Rajya Sabha. A bid to withdraw it from the Upper House last week was scuttled by opposition.

CPI-M leader P Karunakaran as also his party colleague A Sampath said the government has “no right or power” to bring the bill as an identical bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha and has not been disposed of yet.

Saugata Roy (TMC) said that in Parliamentary history in India, a bill has never been introduced in one House while an identical one is pending in the other House.

He said his party opposed raising the FDI cap in the sector, but he will not raise the issue at the introduction stage.

M B Rajesh (CPI-M) lamented that government was creating new precedent by bringing the bill in such a way while his party colleague P K Shrimathi Teacher dubbed it “anti-people”.

N K Prem Chandran (RSP) wondered as to how the House can take up the bill when the legislative process is on in the other House.

Countering them, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the moment an ordinance is issued, it is the law and therefore action taken under it is valid for six weeks.

He quoted Rule 67 of rules of procedure of the Lok Sabha to buttress his point. The rule says that an idential bill cannot be brought before the House if such a bill is pending.

The Minister of State for Finance said the government was well within its right to introduce the bill which seeks to replace an ordinance.

He said it is the Constitutional responsibility of the government to ensure that the bill is passed within six weeks of the ordinance.

The Congress-led UPA had also attempted to pass a bill on raising the FDI in Insurance sector. It had introduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2008, after which it was referred to a select committee.