Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Analysing decline of the role of Parliament in present context

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Constituent assembly

Mains level : Paper 2- Decline in the functioning of legislature

Context

This 75th year of India’s Independence feels like what its first year of freedom may have been like. The pandemic era defined by large-scale loss, lack of adequate state infrastructure and deep economic uncertainty — on the face of it — is reminiscent of the Partition years.

Declining role of Parliament

1) Low functioning

  • In 2020, Parliament sat in session for 33 days.
  • According to PRS Legislative Research (PRS), in the 2021 Monsoon Session, the Lok Sabha was scheduled to work for six hours per day for 19 days.
  • Instead, it sat for 21 hours in total or 21 per cent of what was conceived.
  • Brazil’s Parliament used an application called Infoleg during the pandemic and functioned at higher rates than in pre-pandemic times.
  • The United States Congress met physically for 113 days in 2020. In the year before, they met for 130 days.
  • In the past 10 years, the Rajya Sabha has functioned for less than 25 per cent of its scheduled time.

2) Neglect of the role of Parliamentary Committees

  • According to PRS, none of the 15 bills introduced in this Monsoon Session 2021 has been referred to a Parliamentary Committee.
  • In this current Lok Sabha commencing 2019, only 12 per cent of the bills introduced have been referred to committee.
  • By contrast, the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019) had 27 per cent and the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) had 71 per cent of bills referred to standing committees.
  • More significantly, fewer and fewer drafts of key legislation are being debated across the political aisle before becoming law.

3) No discussion of supplementary budget

  • In this Lok Sabha, nine minutes were spent discussing and passing the supplementary budget that included a Rs 15,750 crore Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.
  • This is the functioning of the legislature — increasingly convened less and debates are few.

Contrast with functioning of Parliament when country faced partition

  •  The drafting of India’s Constitution started in December 1946, when the Constituent Assembly first met, seven months before Independence in August 1947.
  • What makes these years of our constitutional founding so dramatic, was that the backdrop to our founding was as torturous as this pandemic era.
  • As Delhi was slowly filling up with refugees, India’s dual function legislature functioned as Parliament by morning and Constituent Assembly in the afternoon.
  • The first Constituent Assembly was meant to comprise 296 members, but its initial session had only 210 members in attendance.
  •  The assembly faced a boycott by the rest of the members.
  • The Constituent Assembly caucus of the founding Congress Party included many members from outside the party.
  • These members from across the political-ideological spectrum were able to arrive at decisions using a mixture of techniques of problem-solving, persuasion, bargaining and politicking.

Conclusion

The functioning of the Partition era Constituent Assembly is held up as a model of nation-building. Our political class today needs to learn from the makers of our Constitution and stop the declining role of our Parliament today.

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