The winter session of Parliament follows a heavily disrupted monsoon session. In the last session, the Lok Sabha lost 80 per cent and the
Rajya Sabha 73 per cent of scheduled time due to disruptions following the CAG’s report on the allocation of
coal blocks. That issue remains unresolved. Subsequently, the issue of permitting FDI in multi-brand retail has taken centrestage.
The government’s move to permit FDI in multi-brand retail has been criticised not just by opposition parties, but also by some of its supporters. Indeed, the TMC walked out of the UPA on this issue. It may be useful to review the different options available to MPs to raise the issue.
The notification allowing FDI was an executive action and does not need prior parliamentary approval. Only the change in regulations issued under FEMA needs to be tabled in Parliament (and MPs may move a resolution to amend or annul the regulation). However, all executive actions do come under the oversight power of the legislature, and Parliament has the right to debate and require any amendments.
There are four main procedures under which there could be a discussion in the Lok Sabha — a debate without voting under Rule 193, a motion (with a vote) under Rule 184, and an adjournment motion or a no-confidence motion. There could also be a statutory resolution to amend or annul FEMA regulations. Each procedure has a different political implication.
The first procedure is often used to debate national issues on a variety of subjects. For example, five such discussions were taken up in the budget session this year. These included labour regulations, civil aviation policy, pollution of the River Ganga, foodgrains storage and Centre-state relations. Parliament spent about 9 per cent of the total productive time of that session on these debates. It is important to note that discussions under Rule 193 have no direct consequence and only require the minister to respond to the various issues raised.
The second option is that of a motion with a vote under Rule 184. The debate is on a specific question, and this is followed by a vote to determine Parliament’s position on the issue. Passage of a motion would require the government to follow Parliament’s decision on the issue. Such motions are not very common. For example, in August 2011, opposition parties had demanded a debate with voting on the issue of rising prices. However, the