Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

‘Go back to committees’ is the farm laws lesson

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Role of the parliamentary committees

Context

The Prime Minister has informed the nation that the Government is going to repeal the farm laws. This victory indeed takes India’s politics to a new phase — a phase of robust non-political movements with a certain staying power.

Trajectory of the enactment of the farm laws and its shortcomings

  • Farmers not taken into confidence: These laws have a far-reaching impact on the farmers and it was very improper and quite unwise to push them through without taking the farmers into confidence.
  • Question on urgency: Under Article 123 of the Constitution the President can legislate on a matter when there is great urgency in the nature of an emergency and the sitting of Parliament is quite some time away.
  • Farm laws which make radical changes in the farm sector and affect the life of farmers in very significant ways do not have the kind of urgency which necessitates immediate legislation through the ordinances.
  • Bills not referred to committee: It is a wrong impression that Bills which are brought to replace the ordinances are not or cannot be referred to the standing committees of Parliament.
  • The Speaker/Chairman has the authority to refer any Bill except a money Bill to the standing committees.

Significance of parliamentary committees

  • Consultation with Parliament and its time honoured system is a sobering and civilising necessity for governments howsoever powerful they may feel.
  • The accumulated wisdom of the Houses is an invaluable treasure.
  • The experience of centuries shows that scrutiny of Bills by the committees make better laws.
  • The case of the farm laws holds an important lesson for this Government or any government.
  • A proper parliamentary scrutiny of pieces of legislation is the best guarantee that sectoral interest will not jeopardise basic national interest.
  •  So, in any future legislation on farmers it is absolutely necessary to involve the systems of Parliament fully so that a balanced approach emerges.

Way forward

  •  Available data shows that Bills are very rarely referred to the committees these days.
  • Discretion in the presiding officer: House rules have vested the discretion in the presiding officers in the matter of referring the Bills to committees.
  • No reasoned decisions of the presiding officers for not referring them are available.
  • Since detailed examination of Bills by committees result in better laws, the presiding officers may, in public interest, refer all Bills to the committees with few exceptions.
  • In the light of the horrendous experience of the Government over the farm laws, the present practice of not referring the Bills to committees should be reviewed. 

Consider the question ” The experience of centuries shows that scrutiny of Bills by the committees make better laws. In context of this, examine the significance of the parliamentary committees and why fewer bills have been referred to the committees in the recent past?”

Conclusion

Speaker Om Birla has spoken about strengthening the committee system in the recent presiding officers’ conference. One way of strengthening it is by getting all the important Bills examined by them.

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