In a break from convention, the government has not listed a single key economic Bill for the upcoming winter session of the Parliament even though it will take up nearly two dozen Bills during the short session.
The session, which will be held between December 7 and December 29, will have a total of 17 sittings.
Contrary to expectations that the government would bring in key legislation, including one on overhauling the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and another to amend the Competition Act to make it mandatory for high-value mergers and acquisitions to be notified to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) if the deal value is over Rs 2,000 crore, none of them are listed for the session.
The government has stated that it would take up 23 Bills during the session, including seven pending Bills and 16 new Bills for introduction, consideration and passing.
Of these Bills, the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 proposes to enable carbon credit trading and requires certain consumers to meet their energy needs from non-fossil sources. Lok Sabha approved this Bill on August 8, 2022 and now it requires nod from the Rajya Sabha to become law.
The government will introduce a new Bill, the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to strengthen governance and transparency, increase accountability, reform the electoral process, improve the monitoring mechanism and ensure ease of doing business in Multi-State Cooperative Societies.
The government was expected to move a Bill to amend the IBC to expedite the resolution of toxic assets and rework the so-called pre-pack resolution scheme for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to make it more attractive after the scheme failed to gather much interest among debtors and creditors.
Other amendments proposed include a change in the threshold date for the look-back period and curbing the submission of unsolicited resolution plans or frequent revisions in such plans to make the law more robust and help cut delay to prevent further erosion of the toxic asset value.
Another key Bill expected but did not feature in the list is the proposed Competition (Amendment) Bill that was tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session. The provision is expected to capture high-value M&A deals in the digital space. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance might need some more time to thrash out the difference among members before it submits its report on the Bill.
Another amendment seeks to lower the time limit for approval of combinations to 150 days from the current 210 days. The ministry of corporate affairs is understood to have submitted that this will ensure faster approvals and has also highlighted that most of its approvals come well before the 210-day deadline.
The government has also delayed an amendment to the Companies Act to tweak rules related to buy back, auditors, among others.
While the the above Bills might be on the government agenda in the Budget session of Parliament in February, it may buy more time on Bills related to cryptocurrencies and bank privatisation.
The government had intended to introduce the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill in the winter session last year but later decided against it citing the need for broader consultation and global cooperation. The Bill had sought to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies”, although it would have allowed certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses. RBI was in favour of banning cryptos as these are speculative assets and a threat to financial stability.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech for 2021-22, had announced that two PSBs and one state-run general insurer would be privatised, adding that Bills would be introduced in Parliament for this purpose. The voting rights cap of 10% for a non-government shareholder irrespective of her shareholding is among the key constraints identified for the privatisation of PSBs. The government will need to either amend or repeal the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Acts of 1970 and 1980, usually referred to as nationalisation Acts, to remove the hurdle.