Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Parliament is abdicating its oversight role

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary Committees

Mains level : Paper 2- Decline in oversight function of Parliament

Context

The monsoon session of Parliament which ended on Wednesday was a disappointment in several ways. This was the fourth straight session that ended ahead of the original schedule.

No scrutiny of the Bills

  •  Both Houses were frequently disrupted as the Government and Opposition parties could not agree on the topics to be debated.
  • Shrinking worktime: The Lok Sabha worked for just 19% of its originally scheduled time, and the Rajya Sabha for 26%.
  • No examination of Bills by Parliament: Of the 18 Bills passed by the Lok Sabha, only one saw discussion over 15 minutes.
  • In 15 of these Bills, not even one member of the Lok Sabha spoke; each Bill was passed after a short statement by the respective Minister.
  • Every Bill introduced during the session was passed within the session.
  • This means that there was no time for any scrutiny by members.
  • In the period of the Fifteenth Lok Sabha (2009-14), 18% of the Bills were passed within the same session.
  • This rose to 33% in the Sixteenth Lok Sabha and is at 70% halfway through the current Parliament.
  • Thus, we see that, Bills are being passed without any serious examination by parliamentarians.
  • They are most often not being referred to committees, there is hardly any discussion on the floor of the House, and in most instances, Bills are passed within a few days of introduction.

Bills not being referred to parliamentary committees

  • None of the Bills passed in this session was referred to a parliamentary committee for examination.
  • Important role of committee: Parliamentary committees provide a forum for parliamentarians to engage with experts, stakeholders and government officials to understand the implications of Bills.
  • They deliberate on the consequences of various provisions, and recommend amendments.
  • There has been a sharp downward trend in Bills being referred to them — from 71% in the Fifteenth Lok Sabha to 27% in the Sixteenth, and 12% in the current one till date.

Important Bills passed

  • Allowing States to identify Backward Class: The Constitution was amended to allow States to identify backward classes (i.e., Other Backward Classes) for the purpose of providing reservations.
  • That amendment also specified that the President of India shall specify the list of OBCs.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India had interpreted this provision to imply that the State government cannot issue the list of backward classes.
  • Repealing retrospective taxation: In 2012, the Income Tax Act was amended with retrospective effect from 1961 to cover certain transactions.
  • A Bill passed this session reversed this provision of retrospective taxation. 
  • DICGC to pay within 90 days: The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation insures all bank deposits against default (currently up to ₹5 lakh).
  • The Act was amended to require an interim pay-out within 90 days if a bank was going through a liquidation or reconstruction.
  • The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act was amended to enable the Government to bring its shareholding in general insurance companies below 51%.
  • The Tribunals Reforms Bill was passed: The Bill replaced an ordinance which specified the process of appointment of members and their tenure and service conditions.
  • It retained two provisions struck down last month by the Supreme Court: the four-year tenure which the Court changed to five years, and a minimum age of 50 years for judicial members which the Court revised to allow lawyers with experience of 10 years.

Conclusion

The reason for having a legislature separate from the executive is to have a check on executive power.But the Parliament appears to be quite ineffective in all its functions and needs a course correction.


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