Convergence bill ready for introduction in parliament

The current session of parliament will finally see the introduction of the long awaited communications convergence bill 2001. It only remains for the cabinet to meet to okay the finalised draft before it is introduced in parliament.

What will happen after the bill's introduction remains unclear as the main opposition Congress party has been stalling proceedings ever since the controversy over the Tehelka tapes corruption expose erupted. The Congress may refuse to allow the bill's passage or it may so happen that in the midst of all the bedlam in the house it gets cleared by default. Parliament reconvened on Monday and is in session until May 16.

The secretarial committee, headed by jurist Fali S Nariman, and made up of secretaries of the ministry of information and broadcasting, communications and law, on Saturday fine-tuned the revised draft bill, based on suggestions and directions received by the group of ministers on telecom and IT which had met last month, according to the Economic Times.

The group of ministers, headed by finance minister Yashwant Sinha, had apparently sifted through nearly 1,000 responses from the public and various associations on the draft Bill that had been put up on the Net.

The convergence bill, which has nearly 100 clauses, aims to have a common law to regulate broadcasting, telecommunications as well as the Internet.

In the normal course, the bill would be referred to a parliamentary panel on communications and then final parliamentary approval could be expected in the winter session late this year or during the budget session early next year.

Complex legislations are usually referred to lawmakers' committees for comments and changes before being presented to parliament for final approval.

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