India Parliament Winter Session begins

By Kealan Finnegan

The winter session of the Indian Parliament began today, Monday 29th November. With 26 new bills set for the Lok Sabha, running until 23rd December.

The most high-profile Bill set to pass through the lower house in New Delhi is of course the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021. Last week, Prime Minister Modi announced the withdrawal of the three Farm Laws which had seen huge protests for the last year by farmers. But what else is to be debated?

Another Bill which attracted headlines last week is the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, which sets out the ban of all but just a few private cryptocurrencies (decentralised digital currency) while allowing for the creation of an official Reserve Bank of India digital currency. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, have rose to prominence in recent years, and much has been debated as to how Government’s will react. The GoI joins other Governments such as Turkey and China in looking to ban, or at least control, the circulation of crypto in their countries.

A report of the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, will also be tabled in the two Houses. The PDP Bill seeks to provide for the protection of personal data of individuals and to establish a Data Protection Authority.

The UKIBC has actively engaged with our members and both Governments since the Bill was brought in Parliament in 2019 and was referred to a Joint Committee. In 2019, the UKIBC produced a Briefing Note on the Business case for India’s PDP Bill. Since, we have held numerous meetings and engagements with and on behalf of our members, clients and Government. Most recently, we held a virtual roundtable on 18th November 2021 with think tank, The Dialogue, to discuss the Bill and gather member’s constructive feedback.

We also made the case in our September 2021 submission to both Governments ahead of FTA negotiation, in which we advocated for the UK-India FTA to include a Data Adequacy Agreement (DAA) that facilitates the cross-border movement of personal data based on mutual adequacy. Businesses would like to see an agreed approach that balances innovation, market forces and security. Such a DAA would incorporate provisions that protect the personal data and privacy of Indian and British citizens and guarantee the enforceability of those rights.

Other bills on the government’s agenda include:

The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 sets out to privatise two public sector banks. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced privatisation of two public sector banks (PSB) under the disinvestment programme while presenting the 2021-22 budget in February this year.

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 introduces an alternate insolvency resolution process for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with defaults up to Rs 1 crore called the Pre-packaged Insolvency Resolution Process (PIRP), aimed at clear-cut and faster insolvency proceedings to help creditors, such as banks, recover dues and prevent bad loans.

The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has proposed amendments to the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 which include provision for specifying minimum renewable energy levels in the overall consumption by establishments and industrial units, aimed at promoting consumption of renewable energy. The Energy Conservation Act empowers the government to specify norms and standards of energy efficiency to be followed by different industries (who are specified in a schedule to the Act) in their use of power.

The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2021: declares six additional National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research as Institutions of National Importance. The Bill also provides for a Council to coordinate the activities among the institutes under the Bill to ensure development of pharmaceutical education and research and maintenance of standards, and a Board of Governors for control and management of the institute’s affairs.

The UKIBC looks forward to lending our continued support to the Government of India and to keeping our members and clients updated as the Winter Parliament session proceeds.

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