From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Disruptions in legislatures
The inability of Parliament to transact any business and the lack of serious deliberation must be a matter of grave concern for all.
Purpose of deliberative democracy
- In a deliberative democracy, Parliament works as a special purpose vehicle for the legislative scrutiny of bills, grievance redressal and debate on policies and related governance issues.
- Its failure to transact business is a sad commentary on three aspects — Members of Parliament, the presiding officers as well as the rules and regulations that define the functioning of both Houses.
How disruption affects Member of Parliaments
- For any parliamentarian, it is extremely disappointing to be unable to speak in the House for which he or she has — in most cases —given notice and come prepared.
- And when this happens too often, their enthusiasm decreases.
- Impact on quality of debate: In such a situation, members are often tempted to make a popular intervention than a substantive one.
- This certainly impacts the quality of debates negatively.
Challenges for presiding officer
- For the presiding officers too, preventing disruptions is a serious challenge.
- Perhaps presiding officers can emulate the courts of law.
- Use of in-camera proceedings: Like in courts, the presiding officers need to consider conducting in-camera proceedings in their chambers to insulate at least the Zero Hour and Question Hour from getting washed out.
- While the House remains force-adjourned, presiding officers can order in-camera hearing of questions of MPs and replies of ministers.
- Zero Hour submissions could also be dealt with similarly.
- Some tweaking of existing rules and regulations may facilitate this.
Issues with media coverage of Parliamentary proceedings
- In any polity, systems work effectively when wrongdoers are punished and rule-abiding people are rewarded.
- What happens currently is exactly the opposite, especially in the context of coverage of parliamentary proceedings in mainstream media.
- The space allocated for parliamentary proceedings in both, print and electronic media is shrinking fast.
- Rarely does one finds adequate coverage of Question Hour or Zero Hour compared to the past.
- Debates on bills are also subject to brief and sketchy reporting.
- Although disruptions have become common, they continue to get reported without fail and disruptors often bask in the media limelight.
- As against this, those who make a reasonably good speech — well argued and supported by statistics, examples or case studies — rarely get adequate attention.
- This too hampers the interest of parliamentarians.
- It is high time we rise above the temptations of this tendency and think seriously about systemic reforms.
As the Parliament of independent India enters the eighth decade of its history and prepares to enter a new, more well-equipped and modern Parliament House, it is the right time to think about how we can add value to our deliberative democracy.