Finance Minister P Chidambaram, a day after meeting opposition parties, on Wednesday expressed hope that the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, would be passed this week. And, said there was no need to refer it back to Parliament’s standing committee on finance, as is being demanded by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition groupings.
The expectation is that the Bill would come up and be passed tomorrow, unless the proceedings are obstructed on other grounds. Senior BJP sources said the party supported the Bill in principle. But the party wants it re-referred to the standing committee to scrutinise changes added to the draft since its earlier examination. Hence, it would not help the government pass it. The party might walk out during voting. The BJP has listed Anurag Thakur as its speaker on the issue in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.
Chidambaram said the government had added only one clause to the original Bill - pertaining to banks’ entry into commodity futures trading. “I met both leaders of Opposition (Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley) yesterday and I explained to them that nothing new has been done (to the Bill). One new section has been introduced, based on a report of the standing committee (of Parliament) on food and consumer affairs. They wanted a provision to be introduced,” he told reporters.
The Bill was taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha on Monday, but could not be discussed, as Chidambaram proposed to introduce the provisions that were not part of the original Bill. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said the clauses were not part of the Bill considered by the standing committee on finance, which he heads.
Sinha said the procedure did not allow the government to make changes to the legislation without referring it back to the committee. Chidambaram, however, said he had used Rule 80 of Parliament’s procedures and there was no need to send the Bill back to the panel. “Just as the standing committee on finance made a recommendation, that committee (on food and consumer affairs) made a recommendation on one matter… When I explained this to the two leaders of Opposition, they understood what I have said. They said they will discuss with their party,” he added.
The Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952, allows all entities to participate in commodity futures trading. Banks can trade in shares, bonds and currencies but Section 8 of the Banking Regulation Act prohibits them from trading in goods. The finance ministry now wants to allow banks to trade in commodity futures but the original Bill did not have any such a provision.
Chidambaram also expressed hope that the Opposition would co-operate in getting five key economic reform Bills passed in the ongoing session of Parliament. He said BJP leaders understood the urgency for enacting theses and that he might meet them again on the issue.
Besides the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, Microfinance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill are also pending. The Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2011, and the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, have already been passed in the Lok Sabha this session. “I have got two (Bills) passed in the Lok Sabha. One has gone to the Rajya Sabha. There are three more,” said Chidambaram.
Adding: “I told them, let me pass the banking Bill and I would come back to you over the weekend and discuss the insurance Bill.”