From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Election of the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha
Mains level : Paper 2- Deterioration in functioning of the Parliament and way forward
The article highlight the deterioration in the function of Parliament and its implications.
Declining seating of houses of Parliament
- The current Budget session of Parliament ended on Thursday, two weeks ahead of the original plan.
- This follows the trend of the last few sessions:
- The Budget session of 2020 was curtailed ahead of the lockdown.
- A short 18-day monsoon session ended after 10 days as several Members of Parliament and Parliament staff got affected by COVID-19.
- The winter session was cancelled.
- As a result, the fiscal year 2020-21 saw the Lok Sabha sitting for 34 days (and the Rajya Sabha for 33), the lowest ever.
- This has implications for the proper legislative scrutiny of proposed legislation as well as government functioning and finances.
- There is no reason why Parliament could not adopt remote working and technological solutions, as several other countries did.
Passage of important bills without scrutiny
- During this session, 13 Bills were introduced, and not even one of them was referred to a parliamentary committee for examination.
- The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the Parliament.
- This bill shifts governance from the legislature and the Chief Minister to the Lieutenant Governor.
- The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021, amends the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957 to remove end-use restrictions on mines and ease conditions for captive mines.
- This Bill was passed by both Houses within a week.
- The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) Bill, 2021 — to create a new government infrastructure finance institution and permit private ones in this sector was passed within three days of introduction.
- The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which increases FDI in insurance companies from 49% to 74% also took just a week between introduction and passing by both Houses.
- In all, 13 Bills were introduced in this session, and eight of them were passed within the session.
- This quick work should be read as a sign of abdication by Parliament of its duty to scrutinise Bills, rather than as a sign of efficiency.
- Also, the percentage of Bills referred to committees declined from 60% and 71% in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09) and the 15th Lok Sabha, respectively, to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha and just 11% in the current one.
Money Bill classification issue
- The Finance Bills, over the last few years, have contained several unconnected items such as restructuring of tribunals, introduction of electoral bonds, and amendments to the foreign contribution act.
- Some of the earlier Acts, including the Aadhaar Act and Finance Act, have been referred to a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
- It would be useful if the Court can give a clear interpretation of the definition of Money Bills and provide guide rails within which Bills have to stay to be termed as such.
Passage of Budget without discussion
- The Constitution requires the Lok Sabha to approve the expenditure Budget of each department and Ministry.
- The Lok Sabha had listed the budget of just five Ministries for detailed discussion and discussed only three of these; 76% of the total Budget was approved without any discussion.
- This behaviour was in line with the trend of the last 15 years.
No Deputy Speaker
- Article 93 of the Constitution states that “… The House of the People shall, as soon as may be, choose two members of the House to be respectively Speaker and Deputy Speaker….”
- A striking feature of the current Lok Sabha is the absence of a Deputy Speaker.
- By the time of the next session of Parliament, two years would have elapsed without the election of a Deputy Speaker.
- In order to fulfil its constitutional mandate, it is imperative that Parliament functions effectively.
- This will require making and following processes:
- 1) Creating a system of research support to Members of Parliament.
- 2) Providing sufficient time for MPs to examine issues.
- 3 )Requiring that all Bills and budgets are examined by committees and public feedback is taken.
Consider the question “Parliament as a representative body is expected to examine all legislative proposals, understand their nuances and implications and decide on the appropriate way forward. Yet, more and more Bills are passed without enough deliberations. What are the implications of it? Suggest the measures to deal with it.”
In sum, Parliament needs to ensure sufficient scrutiny over the proposals and actions of the government.