Budget Session: Top Five Economic Bills On The Parliament's Agenda

Around 35 bills are pending for approval before both the Houses, according to government records.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>File image of the current Parliament building in Delhi.&nbsp;(Photo: Reuters)</p></div>
File image of the current Parliament building in Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)

After a month-long break, the second leg of the Parliament's budget session commenced on Monday. The session will have a total of 17 sittings and will conclude on April 6.

Although the priority of the session would be to pass the Finance Bill, 2023, lawmakers would also be considering several other key economic legislations, including the much-awaited Digital Data Protection Bill. Around 35 bills are pending for approval before both the Houses, according to government records.

Some of the key economic legislation up for consideration in this session are:

Finance Bill, 2023

The main focus of the session, the Finance Bill, 2023, introduces several major changes to the personal tax regime. The new income tax regime, which reduces the number of slabs and hikes the basic exemption limit, will become the default once the bill is passed. According to the Bill, no tax would be levied for an income up to Rs 3 lakh and the highest rate of surcharge will be reduced from 37% to 25%.

Several changes are also proposed to the indirect tax regime, including the Customs Act, which will result in a change in rate of import duties. The Central Goods and Services Tax Act will also see certain changes, for instance, restriction of tax credit on expenditure for corporate social responsibility and expansion of the levy to foreign platforms providing digital content to Indian entities.

Changes are also proposed to the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988; Indian Stamp Act, 1899; and the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, via the bill.

Jan Vishwas (Amendment Bill), 2022

In order to reduce the compliance burden on individuals and businesses and to ensure ease of doing business, the government has proposed a legislation to decriminalise 42 laws, including provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2002; the Patents Act, 1970; and the Copyright Act of 1957. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Dec. 22, 2022.

The bill, while decriminalising several offenses, replaces fines with huge penalties. For instance, disclosing personal information in violation of the IT Act, 2002, will now attract a penalty of Rs 25 lakh in place of the three-year imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh fine prescribed currently.

The bill also proposes appellate mechanisms for persons dissatisfied with the orders of the adjudicating authority.

The Competition Amendment Bill, 2022

A bill to revamp the Competition Act was introduced in Parliament in August last year. It was later placed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, which suggested several changes to it.

A settlement mechanism for reducing litigation, introduction of a deal value threshold for mergers and acquisitions, and the decriminalisation of various offenses are some of the key highlights of the proposed law. Others relate to various timelines under the competition law, including the time available for approving mergers and acquisitions to 150 days from 210 days. The committee had also suggested including bringing cartels under the scope of settlements as a 'pragmatic recourse'.

In the most recent draft of the bill, the government has proposed to modify the term "turnover" when used for penalising errant enterprises to mean "global turnover derived from all the products and services by a person or an enterprise". And two, it has proposed to punish "intention" to collude through a hub-and-spoke mechanism as an anti-competitive conduct.

The change in definition of "turnover" will change the length of the stick the Competition Commission of India wields to punish enterprises engaging in anti-competitive practices, experts have opined.

Competition Amendment Bill, 2022: Embellishments That Merit A Relook

The Mediation Bill, 2021

In an effort to increase the popularity of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, the government is proposing to place before Parliament a mediation bill that will institutionalise mediation in the country. Mediation is a settlement mechanism where a third-party acts as a mediator.

The bill proposes to make pre-litigation mediation mandatory and establishes a mediation council for registering and regulating mediation service providers. It was introduced in Parliament on Dec. 20, 2021, and was later referred to the parliamentary standing committee, which submitted its report in July, 2022.

The committee had raised several issues, including the legality of mandating mediation, saying it is a voluntary process.

The Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022

This is likely to be introduced in Parliament, according to the government's statement in the WhatsApp privacy policy case. In November 2022, a draft bill was put forward by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The bill proposes to regulate the processing of digital personal data and only regulates the automatic collection, storage and usage of personal data. Here, personal data refers to information that can be attributable to an individual. It also proposes to establish the Data Protection Board of India, an authority responsible for ensuring compliance and addressing breaches of various obligations under the bill.

The draft law faced severe criticism for being vague and for leaving too much to the discretion of the central government.

Personal Data Protection Bill, the predecessor to this proposed law, was withdrawn in August last year to introduce a comprehensive framework for digital data privacy.

A revamped bill is expected to be placed before Parliament in this session.

Besides the above legislations, amendments are also likely to be introduced to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Companies Act, 2013, according to a PTI report.


Sahyaja S is a correspondent at BQ Prime. She is a lawy...more
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