[op-ed snap] A single-party majority govt was the unique factor of the 16th Lok Sabha
Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Basic knowledge of working of 16th Lok Sabha.
Mains level: The news-card analyses the performance of 16th Lok Sabha, in a brief manner.
- The 16th Lok Sabha, which adjourned on 13th Feb 2019, was notable for the fact that it saw a single party take majority in the House.
- A single-party majority government was in office for the first time in 30 years—the key factor lending uniqueness to this Lok Sabha.
- It came after a long line of coalitions between 1989 and 2014.
- The 16th Lok Sabha saw a single party getting a majority with 282 seats and with the support of allies that number going up to more than 300.
In terms of performance, 16th Lok Sabha did not distinguish itself much
- There were legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) Bill which were passed.
- The high point of this Lok Sabha was the midnight session of Parliament to mark the coming into effect of GST.
- There was also the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that will be counted among major Bills passed by this Lok Sabha.
- These will be seen as useful in terms of setting the economy on a sound track.
- However, if one were to look at legislation passed in terms of the prime minister’s slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” or inclusive development, the record of this Lok Sabha has been disappointing.
- There have been too few laws passed that make an impact such as constitutional amendments or in terms of legislation on social issues.
Very few legislations for inclusive development
- It is disappointment to thinking people that at the end of five years the government is not any closer to the dream of inclusive development.
- However, two legislations—the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill or triple talaq Bill and the Bill to provide 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of society—could come into the above category of inclusive.
- But experts would contend that these are rather controversial.
- The former deals with a civil issue which is marriage and divorce and divorcing ones’s wife by uttering talaq thrice has been made a criminal offence.
- In the case of the latter, reservations were brought in to remove social backwardness in society, or empowering those kept out of the power system.
- With the 10% reservation for economically backward sections of society, the government has moved away from the fundamental precept for which reservations were conceived in the first place.
Trend of disruption of house continued
- Another thing we saw in this Lok Sabha is the trend of disruptions that has continued from the past few Lok Sabha sessions.
- In fact, it was seen to have become worse in the 16th Lok Sabha.
- Some sessions of the current Lok Sabha were completely lost to disruptions.
- Last year’s budget was passed without any discussion.
- Usually the finance Bill is something on which there is debate and discussion. Members suggest or move amendments.
- But last year, the budget was not subject to scrutiny.
No dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition
- The responsibility of ensuring that the House runs and business is conducted rests on the ruling party.
- Unfortunately, in this Lok Sabha, there was no dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
- We have seen leaders in the past like Indira Gandhi, who had scant respect for the opposition, reach out to them to ensure the House runs smoothly.
- There would be a dialogue with the opposition and, as a result, there would be cooperation on important legislation getting passed.
- The opposition parties would be given time to speak.
- The opposition, too, would do their research, and put the government on the mat.
- In the current Lok Sabha, there is an impression of a complete breakdown of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
- There is an impression that the government does not want debate or discussion.
- The ruling party has to be sensitive to the grievances of the opposition.
Adjournment: An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks. In this case, the time of reassembly is specified. An adjournment only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House. The power of adjournment lies with the presiding officer of the House.
Adjournment Sine Die: Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine die. The power of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.
Prorogation: Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House. Usually, within a few days after the House is adjourned sine die by the presiding officer, the President issues a notification for the prorogation of the session. However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.
Dissolution: A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held. Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution.
Note: When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions and so on pending before it or its committees lapse.
[op-ed snap] Council conundrum: on States having a Legislative Council
Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Constitutional articles related to Legislative council
Mains level: Debate surrounding the establishment of legislative councils in states
Odisha’s plan to have a legislative council
- Odisha wants to join the group of States that have an Upper House
- The State Cabinet has approved a 49-member Legislative Council after accepting the report of a committee set up in 2015 to study the functioning of the second chamber in other States and make recommendations
The process of setting up a state council
- Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority
- Thereafter, Parliament has to enact a law to create it
Advantages of having an Upper House
- An Upper House provides a forum for academicians and intellectuals, who are arguably not suited for the rough and tumble of electoral politics
- It also provides a mechanism for a more sober and considered appraisal of legislation that a State may pass
Arguments against having a council in states
- Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected
- It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer
- Today, legislatures draw their talent both from the grassroots level and the higher echelons of learning. There are enough numbers of doctors, teachers and other professionals in most political parties today
- If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country should, and arguably would have a second chamber
- The fact that there are only seven such Councils suggests the lack of any real advantage
Comparison with Rajya Sabha
- The Rajya Sabha’s represents the States rather than electoral constituencies
- It is also a restraining force against the dominance of elected majorities in legislative matters
- Legislative Councils are subject to varied and inconclusive discussions around their creation, revival and abolishment
- Given all this, Odisha’s proposal may give the country at large an opportunity to evolve a national consensus on Legislative Councils
Odisha to get Legislative Council
Mains Paper 2: Polity| Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features.
From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important
Prelims Level: Article 169 of the Constitution
Mains Level: Need for a Legislative Council
Odisha to get a Legislative Council
- Odisha is all set to get a Legislative Council like several other States in the country.
- The proposed Council will have 49 members, which is one-third of the 147-member State Assembly.
- The State will have to spend ₹35 crore annually for the Council, the members of which will get salary and allowance as given to the members of the Legislative Assembly.
- The Odisha government had set up a committee in 2015 to study the Legislative Councils in other States and recommend for establishment of one in the State.
- Article 169 of the Constitution of India provides for the establishment of a Vidhan Parishad.
- The Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council is the upper house in those states of India that have a bicameral legislature.
- As of 2017, seven (7) (out of twenty-nine) states have a Legislative Council viz.
- Andhra Pradesh
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Uttar Pradesh
- Each Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) serves for a six-year term, with terms staggered so that the terms of one third of a council’s membership expire every two years.
- This arrangement parallels that for the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India.
- MLCs must be citizens of India, at least 30 years old, mentally sound, not an insolvent.
- He must be registered on the voters’ list of the state for which he or she is contesting an election.
- He or she may not be a Member of Parliament at the same time.
Size of the House
- The size of the Vidhan Parishad cannot be more than one third of the membership of the Vidhan Sabha.
- However, its size cannot be less than 40 members (except in Jammu and Kashmir, where there are 36 by an Act of Parliament.)
Elections of Members
They are elected by local bodies, legislative assembly, governor, graduates, teacher, etc. MLCs are chosen in the following manner:
- One third are elected by members of local bodies such as municipalities, gram sabhas/gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and Zila Parishad.
- One third are elected by members of Legislative Assemblies of the State from among the persons who are not members of the Assembly.
- One sixth are nominated by the governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as literature, science, arts, the co-operative movement and social service.
- One twelfth are elected by persons who are graduates of three years’ standing residing in that state.
- One twelfth are elected by persons engaged for at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state not lower than secondary schools, including colleges and universities.
Why need Legislative Council?
- VP has no powers in terms of passing bills; be it money bills or ordinary bills, unlike Rajya Sabha which has equal powers as that of Lok Sabha in terms of Ordinary bills and Amendment bills.
- This is the reason, it is generally optional to have Vidhan Parishad.
- The purpose of having a bicameral legislature is to re-check the decisions taken by the lower house.
- Even though the upper house has no power to totally reject the bill (even if it rejects, the state assembly can go ahead with the bill after governor’s approval), it can delay the bill for some time.
- The delay will be the time given to the assembly to revise its decision and make any changes to the proposed bill.
- It will cool down the rush of the hour feeling in the popularly elected house and paves way for much rational thoughts.
- As there are no powers for Vidhan Parishad to block any bills, there is not much harm in having such a house.
- The Council has no powers to advise a bill passed in the Assembly.
- It can only delay the passage of the bill for 3 months in the first instance and for one month in the second.
- There is no provision of joint sitting as in case of disagreement in Parliament over ordinary bills.
- In the ultimate analysis, the Legislative Council is a dilatory chamber so far as ordinary legislation is concerned.
- It can delay the passage of the bill maximum for a period of four months.