Rajya Sabha

August 6, 2019

Derek O’Brien speaks on The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019

Derek O’Brien speaks on The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019


Sir, I know you have a big heart so before I speak on the Consumer Protection Bill, give me 20 seconds, only 20 seconds to speak on, rather to mention, the protection of the people of Kashmir. 

Democratic institutions in Kashmir should work democratically there. We are with Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, we are with the people of Kashmir at this difficult time. 

Sir, there are two issues being discussed today. One is about the Select Committee. My Motion to send this to a Select Committee, simultaneously we are discussing the Bill. Give me permission to first talk on the first part which is why we want this to go to a Select Committee, and then in the last three to four minutes I will come to the Bill. 

Sir, the MPs here maybe are familiar with this, but I will take a minute to do a beginners’ guide on passing good legislation. There are five little steps.

Step One: The Cabinet approves the Bill, then it goes to the Law Ministry and then back to the Cabinet for its approval. 

Step Two: The Bill comes in for circulation. 

Step Three: The Bill is introduced in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha and it becomes the property of that particular House. After this for further discussions and deliberations and for more opinions, it can be sent either to a Standing Committee or to a Select Committee.

Now, why is it called a Standing Committee? Because it stands for one year; it is permanent. Why is it called a Select Committee? Because its members are selected from the Lok Sabha (20 members) and the Rajya Sabha (10 members). These two committees have, from 1993, been empowered to do this legislation. 

Step Four: Then it can passed by the two Houses. 

Step Five: One of the two Houses can decide by moving a Motion to send it to a Select Committee. Normally what happens is that even though individual members move it – you can see all the precedents – it is the Government in the spirit of parliamentary democracy that brings the Motion for sending it to a Select Committee. Then of course the Bill will get passed faster and will go for presidential assent. 

Now Sir, our second point. We have been hearing that we cannot send all these Bills to a Standing Committee or a Select Committee. Why? Because the Standing Committees have not been constituted. I don’t want to go too far back, I will only go back to the 16th Lok Sabha and to the 13th Lok Sabha. In the 16th Lok Sabha, without the Standing Committees being constituted, 10 Bills were referred to Standing Committees. The list of 10 Bills is here with me. Sir, there is no precedent as to what we are doing now is correct. 

I am making this speech on behalf of Trinamool Congress, but the first part of my speech is meant to try and share with you, Sir, and the others, and through you, with the nation at large, that our job here is to protect parliamentary integrity. I am not saying this in a negative way or an aggressive way I think we are all responsible for this, Sir. 

So in the 16th Lok Sabha, 10 Bills were referred to Standing Committees, even though they were not constituted. Now you will  say I gave you 16th Lok Sabha, but that was an NDA Government, they would have sent. So now you come to the 13th Lok Sabha, another NDA Government. Nine Bills were referred to the Standing Committees, two to Joint Committees and one to a Joint Committee of the  Rajya Sabha. That is the list of Bills. Again, Standing Committees were not constituted.

I have also been told that in the Rajya Sabha, our track record is good because in the last two years since we’ve had the Rajya Sabha Chairman here, out of ten Bills introduced here, eight have gone to Standing or Select Committees. I am not talking about how many Bills were introduced here or there. My limited point is on how we are doing on legislation. 

Before we understand how we are doing on legislation, let us see what parliamentary precedents have we broken this time. Let us look at the number of sittings, the number of days. This is history. In the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Lok Sabhas, Parliament in the first sessions have only sat for seven days  If you add up the first and second sessions, it comes to 26 days or 31 days or 33 days. 

Now we have sat for 37 days in the first session. This is unprecedented, so if you want to pat yourself on the back, saying how many hours you are sitting – no Sir, you cannot do that. You cannot pass legislation with only 17 per cent of Bills scrutinised by both Houses. This is bad legislation. We have to scrutinise it. The earlier numbers we have said, before it was 60 per cent, 70 per cent and even last time, it was 26 per cent. And when the Opposition, in a constructive way, makes these suggestions, then don’t say the Opposition is being negative. The Opposition’s role is to protect the integrity of Parliament. By bringing all these to your notice, Sir, we are doing just that, and that’s why we are moving a Motion to send this to a Select Committee. A quick point on what happened yesterday because this is a procedural lapse that happened, and I hope nobody challenges it in court.

 The Minister at 11.08am <interruption by the Deputy Chairman> Sir, we are discussing the integrity of the Parliament . <interruption by the Deputy Chairman> Sir, I’m not a television channel in Kashmir which have been blackened, I’m a Member of Parliament, I will speak. <interruption by the Deputy Chairman> Sir, if we are not consumers and we are not protected, then who are we protecting? I made this point yesterday, Sir, I’m not fighting, I’m only bringing this to your notice. At 11.08am, you move a resolution, at 11.18am,  the List of Business comes – is this not important, Sir? <interruption by the Deputy Chairman> Kabhi nahin huyi? Sir, let me make a point, since you said, ‘Kabhi nahin huyi’, I owe you an explanation. What was said yesterday is that a Bill is brought in the morning … I can give you 30 examples <interruption by the Deputy Chairman> You made point on me, saying kabhi nahin huyi. Yeh kabhi nehi huyi, <interruptions by the Deputy Chairman>  Resolution move kiya… bola kabhi nahin huyi..nahin to hamara remarks expunge kijiye.

 At moments like these I have to remind you, Sir and through you, the House, what was said in September 1953: ‘Our people must not forget that there is a majority and there is a minority [here in Parliament] and they simply cannot ignore the minority voice by saying, Oh no, to recognise you is to harm democracy.’ Dr Ambedkar said this. <Interruption by Deputy Chairman>

 Why did I say all this? Why did the Trinamool and few other parties move a Resolution, why? First we gave you the reasons, with facts, percentages, all numbers well-researched. So we appeal to look at this and the integrity. And the second reason I gave you, Sir, is that if it makes somebody uncomfortable, let it be uncomfortable but no one will ever write or black out the speech of the All India Trinamool Congress. We will come here and speak our mind. 

Sir, now let’s come to the content of the Bill. There’s a very experienced Minister there and I completely agree with what he said in his noble objective: Protection for consumers, yes; protection for consumer rights, yes. Hamara jo do teen char points hai, ab mantriji ne bahut khula man se bola we appreciate. If he likes some of the suggestions – though now he will not include it maybe because the majority of the numbers will prevail – consider, Sir, though to put some of these in the rules. 

Sir this is a Bill that has gone twice to a committee. That is why all the consumer issues, many of them, have been handled. Our issue is a little different, Sir. Our issue is, we have suggestions to do with the snatching away of the States’ rights. That’s what I want to dwell on now, Sir. Now there are crucial three or four points. There is a crucial departure from the earlier Act and Bill.

Mantri ji, teen hai, departures from the earlier Act. 1986 jo Act tha aur 2015 ka jo Act tha, uss mein specified judicial members mein se ek mahila ke liye reservation thi. Mera request hai Trinamool se, mahila ka jo reservation tha who reservation aap please rules me laiye. 

Dusra sujhav hai, Sir – Sir, we are here to do serious parliamentary debate because we come here, so allow us to speak and explain – just like there are specified judicial members, women members, so too let the High Court judge be put in as well, otherwise the canvas is too wide. That’s our first suggestion to bring in, which was there in the original Act.

The second difference hai, 1986 aur 2015 Act mein, selection committees would appoint members on these commissions. Teesra problem hain, Mantriji – aur aap toh regional party se aya, you are grown out of Bihar, you will understand our pain, actually, and so would the Prime Minister, so would the Home Minister; they are all children of federalism in that sense, they have all come out of States – it’s about the separation of power, which is the basic structure of our Constitution, we would like the States to be involved. 

All the executive powers Centre retain kar raha hai. But the financial burden, according to this Bill, is going to the State. Agar power aap ka hain, kendriya, bill humko kyun dena hai State se? The Centre makes rule for appointment, qualifications and members of the district as well as the State commission.      

Point number two. The States have to bear the cost of setting up these commissions. Sir yeh kya baat hai? 

Teesra, hamara jo State ka federal power hai, that is being taken away because of this Bill, or certain clauses in this Bill.

Chautha, the States have not been consulted at all. As per Article 283, state to pay out from consolidated funds for creating bodies that would essentially be controlled by the executive at the Centre. We have a problem with this. These are the problems, Sir. 

We were trying to get from the first day of the session, and now I am told that two Bills from here and two Bills from the Lok Sabha will go to Select Committees. When you are hungry they throw some crumbs. But this Bill also, Sir. And I tell you that Select Committee, Standing Committee is not a delaying tactic by a constructive Opposition. It is not. It is for better quality of the Bills. This is a good example, though the federal part is bad. I would request this Government, through you, to ask the Government to bring a resolution at the end of this debate.