Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Declining seating of the state legislature and issues with it.

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provisions related to sessions of legislatures

Mains level : Paper 2- Declining number of sittings of state legislature

Recently, Governor turned down the recommendation of the Kerala government to convene the session of the state legislature. It also points to the trend of declining seating of the state legislature and issues with it.

Governor-Government conflict

  • The Kerala government made a recommendation to the governor for summoning the state’s legislature for a one-day session.
  • The government wanted to discuss the situation arising out of the farmers’ protest in the legislative assembly.
  • Media reports suggest that the governor turned down the government on the grounds that there is no emergent situation for which the state assembly should be called to meet at short notice.
  • Earlier this year, the Rajasthan governor had rejected the recommendation of the government to call a session.
  • The chief minister wanted a session of the legislature called so that he could prove his majority on the floor of the house.

Constitutional provisions

  • The Constitution is clear: The government has the power to convene a session of the legislature.
  • The council of ministers decides the dates and the duration of the session.
  • Their decision is communicated to the governor, who is constitutionally bound to act on most matters on the aid and advice of the government.
  • The governor then summons the state legislature to meet for a session.
  • The refusal of a governor to do so is a matter of concern.

Declining sittings of the state legislature

  • In the last 20 years, state assemblies across the country, on average, met for less than 30 days in a year.
  • But states like Kerala, Odisha, Karnataka are an exception.
  • The Kerala Vidhan Sabha, for example, has on average met for 50 days every year for the last 10 years.
  • The trend across the country is that legislatures meet for longer budget sessions at the beginning of the year.
  • Then for the rest of the year, they meet to fulfill the constitutional requirement that there should not be a gap of six months between two sessions.

Why is it a matter of concern

  • Close scrutiny: Continuous and close scrutiny by legislatures is central to improving governance in the country.
  • Voice to public opinion: Legislatures are arenas for debate and giving voice to public opinion.
  • Accountability institutions: As accountability institutions, they are responsible for asking tough questions of the government and highlighting uncomfortable truths. So, it is in the interest of a state government to convene lesser sittings of the legislature and bypass their scrutiny.
  • Prevent ordinance: Lesser number of sitting days also means that state governments are free to make laws through ordinances. And when they convene legislatures, there is little time for MLAs to scrutinize laws brought before them.

Way forward

  • Convening legislatures to meet all around the year.
  • In many mature democracies, a fixed calendar of sittings of legislatures, with breaks in between, is announced at the beginning of the year.
  • It allows the government to plan its calendar for bringing in new laws.
  • It also has the advantage of increasing the time for debate and discussion in the legislative assembly.
  • And with the legislature sitting throughout the year, it gets rid of the politics surrounding the convening of sessions of a legislature.

Conclusion

Continuous and close scrutiny by legislatures is central to improving governance in the country. Increasing the number of working days for state legislatures is a first step in increasing their effectiveness.

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