Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What Indian lawmaking needs: More scrutiny, less speed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary Committees

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with legislative process

Context

The recent Monsoon Session of Parliament is proof that the speed of passing laws trumps their rigorous scrutiny in our legislative process.

Issues with lawmaking process in India

1) Avoiding pre-legislative scrutiny

  • In our parliamentary system, a majority of laws originate from the government.
  • Each ministry decides the path its legislative proposals will take from ideation to enactment.
  • For example, last year, the Shipping Ministry requested public feedback on the two bills — Marine Aids and Inland Vessels.
  • This mechanism enables the strengthening of the legal proposal through stakeholder inputs before being brought to Parliament.
  • However, ministries expedite their bills by not putting them through a similar pre-legislative scrutiny process.

2) Misuse of Ordinance route

  • Over the years, successive governments have exploited the spirit of this constitutional provision.
  • Governments have promulgated an ordinance a few days before a parliamentary session, cut a session short to issue one, and pushed a law that is not urgent through the ordinance route.
  •  But the executive sometimes fails to follow through on the legislative urgency.
  • Bringing in law through the ordinance route also bypasses parliamentary scrutiny.
  • But parliamentary committees rarely scrutinise bills to replace ordinances because this may take time and defeat the issuing of the ordinance.
  • Over the last few years, bills like GST, Consumer Protection, Insolvency and Bankruptcy, Labour Codes, Surrogacy, and DNA Technology have benefited from parliamentary committees’ scrutiny.
  • Their closed-door technical deliberations, inputs from ministry officials, subject-matter experts, and ordinary citizens have strengthened government bills.

3) Delay in rule framing

  • Unnecessary urgency in getting laws passed by Parliament does not result in their immediate implementation.
  • For the law to work on the ground, the government is supposed to frame rules.
  • Last year the Cabinet Secretary twice requested the personal intervention of secretaries heading the Union ministries to frame regulations for bringing into force the laws made by Parliament.
  • Before the Monsoon Session, he wrote a follow-up letter on similar lines to his colleagues.

Implication of fast-tracking the law-making

  • Difficulty in achieving desired outcomes: Hurriedly-made and inadequately-scrutinised laws hardly ever achieve their desired outcomes.
  • Wastage of time of legislature: Enacting statutes without proper scrutiny also wastes the legislature’s time when the government approaches Parliament to amend such laws.
  • Loss of opportunity: But the unmeasurable cost of a poorly-made law is in the loss of opportunity to an entire nation that has to comply with it.

Way forward

  • The government must ensure that it identifies the gaps in our legal system proactively.
  • All its bills should go through pre-legislative scrutiny before being brought to Parliament.
  • The legislature, on its part, should conduct in-depth scrutiny of government bills.
  • Mandatory scrutiny of bills by parliamentary committees should become the rule and not the exception.

Conclusion

India is in urgent need of course correction in its legislating process. What we need is a robust law-making process.

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