The first session of the Indian Parliament after re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded on 7 August 2019 (Session). The Session witnessed passage of more than 30 bills with the Lower House of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) sitting for 281 hours in 37 days (approx. 135% of its scheduled hours) and the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha) sitting for 195 hours (approx. 103% of its scheduled hours) in 35 days – significantly higher than their respective average in past decades.
Following are the highlights of the key legislative actions undertaken during the Session:
- The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Provides amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 such as re-categorization of certain compoundable offences (including offences related to issuance of shares at a discount and failure to file annual returns) as civil defaults, transfers some approval related powers from the National Company Law Tribunal to the Central Government, requires companies to make disclosures in their annual reports stating reasons for failing to spend the statutorily required amounts on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and requiring all unspent annual CSR funds to be transferred to one of the funds under schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013 (such as the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund).
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019
It addresses three issues by providing amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 i.e., (i) strengthens the provisions related to time bound resolution, (ii) specifies the minimum pay-outs to operational creditors and dissenting financial creditors in any resolution plan, and (iii) specifies the manner in which the representative of a group of financial creditors (such as home-buyers) should vote.
- The Code on Wages, 2019
Provides for consolidation of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 under one law. It empowers the Central Government to fix a floor wage, taking into account living standards of workers across different geographical areas and wages would include salary, allowance, or any other component expressed in monetary terms but would not include bonus payable to employees or any travelling allowance, among others.
- The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019
Provides for increasing the number of judges in the Supreme Court of India from 31 to 34.
- The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019
It replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and defines the rights of consumers, provides a grievance redressal mechanism for the violation of consumers’ rights, sets up a regulator (Central Consumer Protection Authority) to protect consumers’ interests, provides penalties for misleading advertisement, and provides for product liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.
- The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Provides amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to create an autonomous council called the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) for the promotion of arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms and which would (i) frame policies for grading arbitral institutions and accrediting arbitrators, (ii) make policies for the establishment, operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards for all alternate dispute redressal matters, and (iii) maintain a depository of arbitral awards (judgments) made in India and abroad. It further provides for details of arbitration proceedings to be kept confidential except for the details of the arbitral award in certain circumstances.
- The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019
Provides for establishing an autonomous and independent centre for better management of arbitration in India i.e., the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) to conduct arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings and declares it as an institution of national importance. The key objectives of the NDIAC includes (i) promoting research, providing training and organising conferences and seminars in alternative dispute resolution matters; (ii) providing facilities and administrative assistance for the conduct of arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings; and (iii) maintaining a panel of accredited professionals to conduct arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings.
- The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019
Provides for a mechanism to ban unregulated deposit schemes and protects the interests of depositors. It permits the Central Government to designate an authority to create an online central database for information on deposit takers.
- The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Provides amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 on road transport and safety and the licensing and registration processes, among others, and has various provisions relating to (i) compensation for road accident victims, (ii) compulsory insurance cover, (iii) good Samaritans, (iv) recall of motor vehicles, and (v) taxi aggregators.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019
Provides amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 with respect to investigation and prosecution of offences relating to terrorism. It empowers the Central Government to declare an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism. It further empowers the Government to declare individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
- The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019
Provides for reorganisation of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (with a legislative assembly) and the Union Territory of Ladakh (without a legislative assembly). The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir would be the common High Court for both the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. A Union Territory is under direct supervision of the Central Government.
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