From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : British and Indian Parliamentary model
Mains level : Indian Parliamentary model, increasing leniency towards disruption, consequences and solutions
What’s the news?
- Disruptive behavior within India’s Parliament is on the rise, leading to concerns about declining decorum and public perception, as well as its impact on governance.
- India’s Parliament faces a decorum crisis with growing disruptive behavior during special sessions, raising concerns of impending chaos. Lawmakers from various parties resort to disruption instead of constructive debate. It’s high time to address this issue and seek inspiration from the British parliamentary model, which once inspired our nation’s leaders.
Initial Pride in the Parliamentary System
- Britain’s Westminster model: In the early years following India’s independence, Indian politicians took great pride in the parliamentary system they had adopted. This system was modeled after Britain’s Westminster model.
- Longing for Denied Benefits: India’s nationalists were determined to experience the democracy they had long been denied under British colonial rule. They believed that the British parliamentary system was the best model, and its adoption was a significant step toward achieving democratic governance.
- Attlee’s Proposal: When Clement Attlee, a future British Prime Minister, visited India as part of a constitutional commission, he suggested the merits of a presidential system over a parliamentary one. However, this proposal was met with shock and horror by his Indian interlocutors, who strongly favored the parliamentary system.
- Admiration for British Parliamentary Traditions: Many of India’s first-generation parliamentarians had received their education in England and held a deep admiration for British parliamentary traditions. They found authenticity in emulating these traditions.
- Continuation of British Practices: India’s parliamentary practices continued to mirror British traditions. For example, Indian MPs still thump their desks in approbation, a practice similar to desk-thumping in the British Parliament. When voting on bills, the affirmative call is typically aye rather than yes, although hanh is gaining popularity on some Treasury benches.
- A Compliment from a British Prime Minister: In an instance where an Anglophile Communist MP, Professor Hirendranath Mukherjee, proudly recounted how a visiting British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, had remarked that the Indian Parliament was in every respect like the British one, This comment was regarded as a compliment, even by a Communist, and it emphasized the authenticity with which India had adopted British parliamentary traditions.
Departure from British parliamentary traditions and increasing leniency towards disruption
- Change Over Decades: Over the course of seven and a half decades since India gained independence, significant changes have occurred in the functioning of its parliamentary system.
- Emergence of Boisterous Behavior: India’s natural inclination towards boisterousness and assertiveness has reemerged in its legislative proceedings. This shift marks a departure from the decorum and traditions of the British parliamentary system.
- Disruptions in State Assemblies: Some state assemblies have already experienced chaotic scenes, including instances where furniture was overturned, microphones were ripped out, and legislators threw slippers. Fisticuffs and torn garments have also been observed during scuffles among politicians in these assemblies.
- Code of Conduct Violations: In the national legislature, the code of conduct, which is imparted to all newly-elected MPs, is frequently breached. This includes violations such as speaking out of turn, shouting slogans, waving placards, and marching into the well of the house.
- Pepper Spray Incident: The situation reached an extreme point when a protesting MP released pepper spray within the parliamentary chamber. This act resulted in the hospitalization of some MPs and caused discomfort for the then-Speaker.
- Impunity for Rule-Breaking: Lawmakers have exhibited a remarkable level of impunity in flouting the rules they are elected to uphold. Despite instances of MPs charging up to the presiding officer’s desk, wrenching his microphone, and tearing up his papers, they have often been quietly reinstated to their positions after a few months, accompanied by muted apologies.
Concerns and consequences of disruptive behavior in India’s Parliament
- Obstruction of Meaningful Debate: Disruptive behavior obstructs meaningful debate on important issues, preventing critical legislation from being discussed and passed.
- Weakening of Governance: Prolonged disruptions impede the government’s ability to implement policies and address the needs of the population, leading to weakened governance.
- Erosion of Parliamentary Decorum: Disruptive behavior has led to a noticeable erosion of parliamentary decorum and traditional standards of conduct.
- Negative Public Perception: Disruptions have contributed to a negative public perception of the Parliament, potentially leading to disillusionment with the democratic process.
- Decline in Accountability: Leniency towards disruptive behavior has undermined the accountability of elected representatives.
- Loss of Legislative Productivity: Frequent disruptions have resulted in a loss of valuable legislative time and productivity.
- Threat to Democracy: The disruptive behavior poses a threat to India’s democratic system by hindering the functioning of democratic institutions and diminishing their credibility.
British parliamentary techniques that the Indian parliament must learn and implement
- Opposition Day:
- In the British parliamentary system, Opposition Day allows the opposition parties to select specific policy areas or issues they want to bring to the floor of the House for debate.
- This practice provides the opposition with a designated platform to express their views, criticize government policies, and propose alternatives.
- It promotes constructive debate on matters of political significance and ensures that the government must address issues raised by the opposition.
- Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs):
- PMQs is a significant and widely watched parliamentary event in the United Kingdom.
- During PMQs, MPs have the opportunity to question the Prime Minister about various issues.
- This practice enhances transparency, accountability, and scrutiny of the government’s actions and decisions.
- It is known for spirited exchanges and serves as a key aspect of the British parliamentary system’s tradition of executive accountability.
- Speaker’s Role: The Speaker should reconsider the frequent rejection of adjournment motions and the practice of grouping proposed amendments to bills for voice votes without discussion.
- India’s Parliament stands at a crossroads, with its credibility and functionality at stake due to persistent disruptions. By adopting some of the practices of the British parliamentary system and ensuring a more inclusive and accountable parliamentary culture, India can reinvigorate its democratic institutions and preserve the sanctity of its democracy. It is imperative for the government and the opposition to come together on these fundamental matters to salvage the integrity of the Parliament and the nation’s democracy.