Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Jul, 05, 2019

Explained: Privilege Motion

News

  • A MP from West Bengal has moved a breach of privilege motion in the Lok Sabha against a private news channel and its editor.

What is a privilege motion?

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

What are the rules governing privilege?

  • Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.
  • It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  • The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House.
  • Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

What is the role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha Chair?

  • The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
  • The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
  • If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

What is the privileges committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths.
  • A report is then presented to the House for its consideration. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report.
  • The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.
  • A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, that consists of 10 members.
Jun, 22, 2019

Explained: Automatic Lapsing of Bills in Parliament

News

  • Vice Prez. called for a debate on a Constitutional provision that provides for automatic lapsing of any Bill passed by LS but remains pending in RS on the dissolution of the LS.
  • A “rethink” on the provision, he said, will not let Lok Sabha’s time go waste.

Pendency of Bills

  • Presently Lok Sabha has to take somehow 22 Bills again for consideration and passing. It would take a minimum of two sessions for doing so.
  • This directly means that earlier efforts of Lok Sabha for passing these 22 Bills have been rendered waste.
  • Among the 33 Bills that have survived in Rajya Sabha after the Lok Sabha term came to an end are some that have been pending for decades.
  • Three Bills have been pending for more than 20 years, six Bills for 10-20 years, 14 Bills for 5-10 years and 10 Bills for less than 5 years.
  • The oldest pending Bill, The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 1987, has been pending for over 32 years.

Why it matters?

  • It takes considerable time and energy to get a Bill passed in either House of Parliament.
  • Given the implications for the functioning of Parliament and such lapses hampers productivity of the Houses of Parliament.

What can be done?

  • In order to streamline the process, VP suggested that if a Bill is not taken up for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha within five years of introduction, such pending Bills should be treated as deemed to have lapsed.
  • The present dysfunctional, disruptive environment must change, urged VP.
  • Parliamentarians must use the time available for debates most productively.

Back2Basics

When does a Bill lapse in Indian Parliament? 

Depending on the status of the pending legislation, and where it originated, there are certain cases in which the Bill lapses on dissolution of Assembly.

  1. Bills originated in Lok Sabha
  • Any Bill that originated in the Lok Sabha, but could not be passed, lapses.
  • A Bill originated and passed by the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha also lapses
  1. Bills originated in Rajya Sabha
  • The Constitution also gives MPs in Rajya Sabha the power to introduce a Bill.
  • Therefore a Bill that originated in Rajya Sabha and was passed by it, but remains pending in Lok Sabha also lapses.
  • A Bill originated in the Rajya Sabha and returned to that House by the Lok Sabha with amendments and still pending in the Rajya Sabha on the date of the dissolution of Lok Sabha lapses.

When a Bill does not lapse

  1. Not all Bills, which haven’t yet become law, lapse at the end of the Lok Sabha’s term.
  2. A Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, but not passed by the Lok Sabha, does not lapse.
  3. A Bill passed by both the Houses but pending assent of the President of India, does not lapse.
  4. A Bill passed by both Houses but returned by the President of India for reconsideration of the Parliament does not lapse.
  5. Some pending Bills and all pending assurances that are to be examined by the Committee on Government Assurances also does not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

Exceptions for a Joint Sitting

  1. Apart from the aforementioned exceptions, another situation when a Bill does not automatically lapse with end of the final Parliament session is if the president calls for a joint sitting to vote on a Bill.
  2. Article 108 of the Constitution states that the president may, unless the Bill has elapsed by reason of a dissolution of the LS, summon both Houses to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill.
  3. If at the joint sitting of the two Houses, the Bill, with such amendments, if any, is passed by a majority of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed to have been passed by both Houses.
  4. However there is no provision of joint sittings on a Money Bill or a Amendment Bill.

What happens to Bills that have lapsed?

  • If a Bill is elapsed by virtue of one or more of the conditions explained above, it will have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha (as is or with amendments) should the new government feel the need for it.

Alternative: Promulgating an Ordinance (Art.123)

  • The lapse of a Bill in Parliament still does not prevent the incumbent government from issuing an Ordinance to bring forth the legislation it intended to through the lapsed Bill.
  • According to the Constitution, the government of the day can bring in Ordinance if the Parliament is not in session and if the president is convinced of the urgency of the matter that it can’t wait till the House comes in session again.
  • The Constitution does not explicitly bans a government nearing the end of its term from doing so.
  • Since the lifespan of an ordinance in six months, or till the Parliament’s next session (which in this case will be after the election of 17th Lok Sabha) any ordinance promulgated by the current government is likely to outlive its tenure.
May, 01, 2018

[op-ed snap] Evaluating the panchayati raj institutions at 25

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 73th Amendment(read the attached story)

Mains level: A brief examination and introspection on panchayati raj system.


News

Context

  1. Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the 73th Amendment, a good time for some examination and introspection on panchayati raj
  2. Panchayati raj institutions(PRIs) are simultaneously a remarkable success and a staggering failure

25 years of panchayati raj institutions: A success or a failure?

  1. If the goal was to create another layer of government and political representation at the grass-roots level, then there is no parallel to the PRIs
  2. And if the goal was to provide better governance, then PRIs are a failure and not equipped to succeed anytime in the foreseeable future

Greater representation for women

  1. There are about 250,000 PRIs and urban local bodies, and over three million elected local government representatives
  2. The 73rd and 74th Amendments required that no less than one-third of the total seats in local bodies should be reserved for women
  3. At 1.4 million, India has the most women in elected positions. Seats and sarpanch/pradhan positions were also reserved for SC/ST candidates
  4. While India has always had reservations for elected representatives from disadvantaged groups like SC/STs, this is the only level of government with reservation for women

On all other margins except representation, PRIs are either a failure or a series of missed opportunities
The first failure: Very little devolution of authority

  1. The transfer of various governance functions—like the provision of education, health, sanitation, and water was not mandated
  2. Instead the amendment listed the functions that could be transferred, and left it to the state legislature to actually devolve functions
  3. There has been very little devolution of authority and functions in the last 25 years
  4. PRIs cannot govern unless they are given the authority to actually perform functions related to governance

The second failure: The lack of finances for PRIs

  1. Local governments can either raise their own revenue through local taxes or receive intergovernmental transfers
  2. The 73th Amendment recognized both forms of public finance, but did not mandate either
  3. The power to tax, even for subjects falling within the purview of PRIs, has to be specifically authorized by the state legislature
  4. The 73rd Amendment let this be a choice open to the state legislatures—a choice that most states have not exercised
  5. The constitutional amendment created provisions for State Finance Commissions to recommend the revenue share between state and local governments
  6. However, these are merely recommendations and the state governments are not bound by them
  7. As a result, PRIs are so starved for funds that they are often unable to meet even payroll obligations
  8. They are reluctant to take on projects that require any meaningful financial outlay, and are often unable to solve even the most basic local governance needs

What should be done?

  1. The only long-term solution is to foster genuine fiscal federalism
  2. where PRIs raise a large portion of their own revenue and face hard budget constraints, i.e. fiscal autonomy accompanied by fiscal responsibility
  3. Without the functions and finances, PRIs will only be an expensive failure
Apr, 24, 2018

[pib] Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan, National Panchayati Raj Day

Mains level: Local governance and issues related to it


News:

  • The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will launch the Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan from Mandla in Madhya Pradesh on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day.
  • The Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan will strengthen the Panchayati Raj system across the country and address critical gaps that constrain its success.

RGSA seeks to:

  • Enhance capacities and effectiveness of Panchayats and the Gram Sabhas;
  • Enable democratic decision-making and accountability in Panchayats and promote people’s participation;
  • Strengthen the institutional structure for knowledge creation and capacity building of Panchayats;
  • Promote devolution of powers and responsibilities to Panchayats according to the spirit of the Constitution and PESA Act;
  • Strengthen Gram Sabhas to function effectively as the basic forum of people’s participation, transparency and accountability within the Panchayat system;
  • Create and strengthen democratic local self-government in areas where Panchayats do not exist;
  • Strengthen the constitutionally mandated framework on which Panchayats are founded.

National Panchayati Raj Day

  • It is the national day of India celebrated by Ministry of Panchayati Raj on 24 April annually.
  • Then Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first National Panchayati Raj Day in 2010.
  • It is on this day The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force.
  • This date thus marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level. 
Apr, 13, 2016

Prime Minister to launch ‘Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday’ campaign

  1. News: The Centre, in collaboration with States and panchayats, will launch a 11-day, nation-wide village self-governance campaign.
  2. Aim: To improve rural livelihoods and strengthening the Panchayati Raj across the country,
  3. It will begin on April 14 from Mhow in MP, on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
  4. Activities: A social harmony programme along with village farmer assemblies will be held in gram panchayats, focussing on agriculture and farmers
Feb, 05, 2016

50% quota for women in panchayats planned

  1. Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj would be pushing a Constitutional amendment for PRIs
  2. It seeks to increase the reservation for women in panchayats from 33% to 50% in the budget session of Parliament
  3. Already, States like MP, HP, Bihar and Uttarakhand have provided 50% reservation to women in panchayats
  4. It would also bring changes in the law to reserve a particular ward for women for 2 terms of five years each
  5. This will ensure that they can undertake developmental activities in a continued fashion
Aug, 11, 2015

Newly-formed Panchayats get HC Axe

  1. Kerala High Court quashed the notifications creating new panchayats by carving out parts of existing villages without notification by the Governor.
  2. According to Article 243 (g) of the Constitution, a village can come into existence only after a notification by the Governor.
  3. No panchayat can be formed without first conferring the status of a village to an area where the panchayat is to be formed.
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