A Roundup of the 2022 Monsoon Session of the Parliament

The Parliament will be in session from 7 December 2022 to 29 December 2022, comprising 17 sittings over 27 days. The winter session will begin after the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and the Municipal elections in Delhi. 

The monsoon session was held from 18 July to 8 August 2022, with 16 settings across 18 days.  The time spent in the functioning of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha remained relatively low, at 47% and 42% of the total available time, respectively. The amount of functional time spent in both houses was the second lowest among the previous 9 sessions of parliament, with the 2021 monsoon session seeing the lowest functioning time. 

Six bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha. Of these, the Lok Sabha passed 4 bills, and the Rajya Sabha passed 2. Hence, 2 of the introduced bills were passed by both houses for Presidential assent. Besides the ones introduced in the monsoon sessions, 3 bills each were passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha from previous years and sessions. A major development during the monsoon session was the withdrawal of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. However, it is likely to be tabled in the upcoming winter session. The Bill has witnessed severe debate regarding protecting civil liberties, increased government control over citizens’ information, data access by private tech players, and the implications of jeopardising data protection. 

The following bills were introduced in the monsoon session:

  1. The Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022;
  2. The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022;
  3. The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022;
  4. The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2022;
  5. The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022; and
  6. The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

This article provides a brief overview of the monsoon session as a run-up to the upcoming winter session. It discusses the bills introduced in the monsoon session and the expectations for the upcoming winter session. 

  1. Bills Passed in Both Houses of Parliament
    Of the 6 bills introduced in the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session, the Parliament passed the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022. 

    The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022
    The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 amends the Central Universities Act, 2009. The Act establishes Central Universities for teaching and research in various states across India. The Bill seeks to transform the National Rail and Transportation Institute, Vadodara (a deemed university), into the Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya, an autonomous central university. It would be sponsored and funded by the Ministry of Railways and coordinated under the National Education Policy [NEP] by the Education Ministry. The territorial jurisdiction of the university would not be limited to Gujarat and would extend to the whole of India. The Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya aims to expand the university’s focus beyond the railways and incorporate the entirety of the transport sector to create a multidisciplinary university. The Bill extends that the Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya will take measures to provide high-quality teaching, research, and skill development in various disciplines related to transportation, technology, and management. It looks to establish centres in India and abroad. In addition, the Bill highlights provisions for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor [VC] of the new university. 

    The push towards creating this university is part of a larger effort to amplify and promote the PM Gati Shakti – National Master Plan announced in 2021. The PM Gati Shakti programme is a Rs 100 lakh crore project to develop holistic infrastructure and create seamless multi-modal transport networks across India. With the growth of the transport sector and infrastructural networks through PM Gati Shakti gaining importance, a transport-oriented institute will produce well-trained and skilled cadres who understand and contribute to the development of India’s transport sector. Moreover, the university will provide transport-focused courses and applied research on bridges, tunnels, and material science, among others. It will also facilitate skill development, enhance technical knowledge, and build expertise in transport economics and infrastructure finance. 

    The Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022
    The Family Courts Act of 1984 authorises the State Governments, in consultation with the High Courts, to establish and operate Family Courts to promote conciliation and ensure the prompt resolution of marriage and family disputes. According to the Act, the State Government is required to establish a Family Court for each city or town with a population of over a million people. Family Courts may be established in other areas of the state if the state governments deem it necessary. The Central Government is empowered to notify dates for the Act to come into force in different states. The governments of Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland have set up Family Courts under the Act. However, the Central Government did not extend the application of the Act to these states, leading to delays in settlement of marriage-related disputes in the two states. 

    On 18 July 2022, the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Family Courts Act of 1984. The Bill retroactively validates family courts in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland with effect from 15 February 2019 and 12 September 2008, respectively. The Bill also validates all actions taken under the Act by the governments of Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland and their respective family courts. All actions taken under the Act in both states, including the appointment of Judges and orders and judgments issued by Family Courts, will be deemed valid from these dates. 

    Minister of Law and Justice, Kiren Rijiju, stated that there exist 715 family courts in the country with over 11 lakh pending cases. The Bill will assist in establishing at least one family court in each district so cases can be resolved quickly. 

    Bills from Previous Sessions and Years
    The following bills introduced in previous years and sessions were passed by both houses:

    1. The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022;
    2. The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022; and
    3. The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021.

 

  1. Bills Passed Only in the Lok Sabha
    Of the 6 bills introduced during the monsoon session, the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2022 were passed only in the Lok Sabha. 

    The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022
    The Bill revises the Energy Conservation Act of 2001. The Energy Conservation Act provided a framework for promoting energy efficiency and conservation and was set up by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency [BEE] to recommend standards for energy consumption. These standards are applied to appliances, vehicles, industrial and commercial establishments, and buildings. The Bill was introduced to gear up for the commitments made by India at COP26. The amendment Bill seeks to introduce measures for faster decarbonisation of the “economy.” The key features of this Bill are as follows: 

    • Carbon credit trading scheme: The Bill calls for the central government to set up a carbon trading scheme. Carbon credits are tradable permits that allow entities to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases. The central government or any other agency authorised by the central government will be eligible to issue carbon credits. Individuals and other organisations can also purchase these credits voluntarily to offset their emissions. Raj Kumar Singh, Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, said, “we would want to keep it [carbon credits] to ourselves because we want to achieve our NDCs but anything beyond what we require can be sold anywhere in the world.” 
    • Establishing energy consumption standards: The Bill mandates the central government to specify energy consumption standards. The Bill further directs certain industries and entities to generate a minimum share of their energy requirements through non-fossil sources of energy. This applies to mining, cement, textile, petrochemicals, transport, and commercial buildings. The Bill also carries a fine of Rs 10 lakhs on entities for non-compliance with standards. Additionally, the government will penalise industries and transport vessels in case of non-compliance. However, such a penalty shall not exceed twice the price of every unit of energy consumed (metric tons of oil equivalent) over the prescribed limit. 
    • Energy conservation and sustainable building codes: This new code specifies norms and standards for energy efficiency and conservation, the use of renewable energy, and other requirements for green buildings. The norms apply to commercial buildings constructed after the code’s notification and with a minimum connected load of 100 kilowatts. These norms and standards also apply to offices and residential buildings under the above-mentioned criteria.  
    • Changing the BEE’s composition: The BEE’s governing council initially consisted of 20-26 members. The Bill amends this to increase the number of members in the council. The membership is now between 31-37, while also including 7 members to represent industries and consumers. 

      The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2022
      Alternative Dispute Resolution [ADR] refers to different ways or methods in which people can resolve disputes without a trial. Arbitration is a widely-used method of ADR. Arbitration is the process through which an identified dispute or problem between parties is presented to one or more individuals for a decision, as consented by said parties. 

      The concept of arbitration in India started with the Trade Disputes Act of 1929, which provided a conciliation process to bring settlements of industrial disputes through a board. The International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution was established in 1995 under the Societies Registration Act to make arbitration more effective and efficient in India. It was established as an autonomous organisation to promote alternative dispute resolutions, including institutional arbitration. 

      In institutional arbitration, the entire arbitration process is conducted by an established arbitral institution or organisation. In December 2016, a High Level Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Justice (retd.) B. N. Shrikrishna to review and reform the institutionalisation of arbitration. To promote the committee’s report, the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill was passed by both houses of the parliament in 2019. This Bill establishes the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre as a hub for institutional arbitration and a centre of national importance. The Bill also provides for the acquisition and transfer of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution undertakings by and to the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre. 

      The amendment bill changes the centre’s name from New Delhi International Arbitration Centre to India International Arbitration Centre. The Bill aims to establish India as a centre of international commercial arbitration. The amendment also changes the language of the 2019 Act to reflect that the Centre may specify, by way of regulations, the manner of conducting the arbitration and other ADR mechanisms. However, such provisions are absent from the Bill. 

      The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 was passed only in the Lok Sabha. 

      The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022
      The Electricity (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 8 August 2022 to amend the Electricity Act, 2003. India’s power sector faces numerous challenges, including huge aggregate technical and commercial [AT&C] losses, inadequate electricity supply and service, a lack of investment in the infrastructure supporting the power industry, and unmanageable debt. The Bill intends to address some of these issues.
       

      The Bill encourages competition in the retail distribution of power by allowing new suppliers to use existing infrastructure to supply power. This provision has led to protests by power sector employees. Multiple distribution licensees [DISCOMs] were allowed previously as well. However, the Electricity Act, 2003 requires DISCOMs to distribute electricity through their networks. Consequently, the implementation challenges in laying new networks and the associated time lag created hurdles for the new entrants. The Bill addresses this issue by suggesting that new licensees be permitted to utilise the current network upon paying a user fee or wheeling charge. The All India Power Engineers Federation [AIPEF] has argued that this provision favours private companies at the expense of the government DISCOMs. The private sector will only pay the wheeling fees to access the distribution infrastructure, while the government distribution businesses will be expected to maintain the distribution networks. Such an arrangement endangers the insolvency of government-owned DISCOMs, while private businesses profit. 

      Under the Bill, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission [CERC] will grant licences for electricity distribution in more than one state. Previously, only State Electricity Regulatory Commissions [SERCs] were responsible for licensing distribution. Concerns have been raised that the central government is trying to dilute the powers of the state governments in the electricity sector, a concurrent subject, through the new provisions. This concern is aggravated by the Bill empowering the Centre to give directions to the SERCs. 

      The Bill also allows the state government to set up a Cross-Subsidy Balancing Fund. Cross-subsidy is a mechanism where additional revenue generated by charging a higher tariff to one category of consumers (like commercial and industrial consumers) compensates for the lower tariff charged to other consumers (like domestic and agriculture consumers). The Bill proposes that any surplus with a distribution licensee from cross-subsidy should be deposited into the Cross-Subsidy Balancing Fund. This surplus will be utilised to make up for deficits in cross-subsidy in the same or any other area of supply. 

      By mandating that DISCOMs purchase a specific percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, as set by the government, the Bill also aims to promote green energy.

  1. Bill Passed by Neither House
    Of the 6 bills introduced in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session 2022, only the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was introduced but not passed in either house. 

    The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022
    India adopted the globalisation, liberalisation, and privatisation model with the New Economic Policy of 1991. The policy established a new legal framework to ensure market competition and safeguard consumer interests after India opened up to global market forces. India enacted the Competition Act, 2002 to prevent practices that adversely affected competition and promote and sustain market competition. The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position by an enterprise and regulates combinations. It also regulates combinations that might adversely impact market competition. The Act applies to all merchandise and ventures except those explicitly excluded by the Central Government. It covers private, public, and cooperative sectors of the economy. The Act also provided for the Competition Commission of India, established on 14 October 2003 to authorise the Competition Act, 2002. A review committee was established in 2019 to account for technological advancements, artificial intelligence, and other factors. It proposed several major amendments. Consequently, the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Competition Act. 

    According to the objectives and reasons of the Bill, the amendment is introduced to account for the significant growth in Indian markets, and a paradigm shift in the way businesses operate in the last decade. Following are the major changes this amendment makes:

    • The most significant change in merger control is the proposal to implement a notification threshold based on deal value. The Competition Commission of India needs to be notified if the value of a merger or acquisition exceeds the Rs 2,000 crores deal value threshold and the party to the transaction has substantial business operations in India. The Bill also defines the deal value or value of the transaction as “every valuable consideration, whether direct or indirect, or deferred for any acquisition, merger or amalgamation.”
    • The amendment aims to shorten the total evaluation time limit for combinations from 210 days to 150 days, with an extra 30 days if the parties are needed to provide further information or fix flaws in the notice.
    • The Bill introduces Section 6A, which relaxes the timeline for notification requirements for open-market purchases. It permits parties to notify a transaction even before the Competition Commission of India’s approval. However, the bill mentions,  “the acquirer does not exercise any ownership or beneficial rights or interest in such shares or convertible securities including voting rights and receipt of dividends or any other distributions, except as may be specified by regulations, till the Commission approves such acquisition.” 
    • Section 3(3) of the Competition Act, 2002 prohibits anti-competitive agreements between competing entities that set purchase or sales prices and restrict or control production, supply, or markets. The amendment Bill changes Section 3(3) to expand the scope of the Competition Act to non-competitors. These include hub-and-spoke cartels, where the hub — the organiser or facilitator — communicates with one or more spokes — competing enterprises — and facilitates information exchange between competitors.
    • The Bill amends Section 41 of the Competition Act to extend the Director General of the Competition Commission of India’s search and seizure authority and the ability to call in and examine company agents.
    • A framework for commitments and settlements for cases involving vertical agreements and abuse of dominance is proposed under Section 3(4) and Section 4 by the new amendment. While considering settlement and commitment application requests, the Competition Commission of India will be guided by the nature, gravity, and impact of contraventions. Any decision made by the Commission according to the laws on settlement and commitment shall not be subject to appeal to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.
    • The amendment Bill replaces Section 46 with a new section. This section permits the Commission to grant an additional waiver of penalties to an applicant who discloses the existence of another cartel in an unrelated market. To avail a waiver, the information should help reach a prima facie opinion by the Commission about the existence of the cartel.