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CJI NV Ramana expresses anguish about Non Functioning of Parliament

CJI NV Ramana expresses anguish about Non Functioning of Parliament

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Central Government || Parliament

Why in news?

The non-functioning of Parliament has reportedly caused over Rs. 133 crore losses in taxpayers’ money.

The Indian Parliament- A Quick Overview:

The legislative body of the Union government is the Parliament. The President of India and the two Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha) make up the Indian Parliament (House of the People). India’s President is the executive’s constitutional leader. Article 79 of the Constitution lays forth the legislative framework.

Data on Parliamentary Disruptions:

  • According to a PRS (PRS Legislative Research) research, frequent disruptions of Parliamentary proceedings resulted in the Lok Sabha working for 61% of its planned time and the Rajya Sabha working for 66% of its scheduled time during the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14).
  • According to a PRS study, the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) lost 16% of its planned time due to interruptions, which was better than the 15th Lok Sabha (37%) but worse than the 14th Lok Sabha(13%).
  • The Rajya Sabha used up 36% of its allotted time. It had lost 32% and 14% of its allocated time in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabhas, respectively.

Causes of Disruption:

  • Lack of appropriate time for unlisted discussion: Disruptions can also be caused by a lack of appropriate time for expressing questions and objections about topics that are not listed for discussion in a specific session. Example: Pegasus spyware.
  • Controversial and public issues discussion: A lot of Parliamentary interruptions appear to be the result of debates on either controversial listed topics or unlisted issues of public significance. Issues like the Pegasus Project and the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 are examples of wreaking havoc.
  • Disciplinary powers are rarely used: Another structural reason why disruptions are not successfully prevented is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha’s limited use of disciplinary powers. As a consequence, most members who engage in disruptive behavior are neither deterred nor restricted.
  • Disturbances could be beneficial if the ruling party is attempting to absolve itself of blame: The Question Hour and Zero Hour have the highest number of interruptions. While the opposition’s behavior is primarily to blame, presidential action might also be to blame.
  • Party Politics: When a difficult topic arises, the government takes a long time to debate it, resulting in Opposition MPs breaking the conduct rules and interrupting Parliamentary procedures. The prospect of suspension from the House has no effect on them since they have the backing of their parties in violating the rules.
  • Some other reasons: In 2001, a symposium on legislative discipline and decorum was conducted in the Central Hall of Parliament. There were four causes for the MPs’ unruly behavior, according to the report.
    • MPs are dissatisfied due to a lack of time to express their complaints.
    • The government’s lack of responsiveness and the Treasury benches’ retaliatory approach.
    • Political parties that do not follow parliamentary rules and discipline its members.
    • Under the norms of the legislature, there has been no swift action against disruptive MPs.

What are the issues?

  • Constitutional Right Infringement: Article 75 of the Indian constitution states that the council of ministers is collectively responsible to the House of People and the people of the country in general. As a result, the elimination of question hour and zero hour weakens the idea of legislative control over the executive branch.
  • A barrier to representative democracy: Parliamentary debate is an example of representative democracy in action, in the sense that it allows citizens to directly question the government on issues of governance.

Consequences of parliament disruption:

  • Decline of Representative Democracy
  • Lowering Standards of Parliamentary Scrutiny
  • Parliamentary Privileges Curbing Freedom of Speech
  • Criminalisation of Politics

Step that be taken for Indian parliament more effective:

  • Modify the Anti-Defection Act: MPs who depart from their parties’ positions are subjected to a deadly whipping and their seats are forfeited. Changes to the anti-defection statute should be pushed through so that it only applies when the government’s existence is in jeopardy.
  • Give private member legislation more room and consideration: To allow private member legislation to be submitted. This will allow a wide range of grassroots ideas to emerge. Governments will be able to hear out non-mainstream viewpoints and offer formal backing when necessary. This will enable your MPs to truly become lawmakers. They will quickly learn to master topics of concern to some section of the public and propose bills that address problems that might otherwise get ignored.
  • Televise parliamentary committee proceedings: Bipartisanship and well-researched discussions are often the hallmarks of parliamentary committees. Yet this crucial aspect of the parliamentary process is well-hidden from the public. MPs will earn public recognition and respect if they carefully interrogate issues and officials during committee hearings. People will know who to approach to raise issues related to some pending legislation.
  • Enable “Public Interest Legislation”: A framework should be put in place that allows MPs to hear the concerns of impacted individuals and respond appropriately. Yes, parliament already has a Petitions Committee whose mission is to accomplish just that, but you need to empower and rethink how it works.
  • Bring Transparency to the Clash of Interests: Prior to legislation being approved, numerous publics and groups must find a means to express their concerns to important political decision-makers. This is generally done behind the scenes in India. Bring this process to the surface. The public should be able to learn which groups have access to the political system and how they do so. The finest disinfectant is sunlight.

What more can be done?

  • Increasing the Number of Working Days: The 2001 conference recommended that the number of working days in Parliament be increased. It was decided that Parliament shall meet every year for 110 days and state legislative assemblies for 90 days. In the United Kingdom, where Parliament sits for nearly 100 days a year, opposition parties are given 20 days to set the agenda for debate in Parliament.
  • Code of Behavior: To prevent unrest in Parliament, MPs and MLAs must adhere to a rigorous code of conduct. These concepts aren’t new. The Lok Sabha, for example, has maintained a basic code of conduct for its members since 1952. In 1989, these regulations were updated in response to newer forms of protest. MPs who violate such standards and hinder the House’s business shall be suspended by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • Productivity Meter: On a weekly basis, the total productivity of the session may be evaluated and communicated to the public. For this, a “Productivity Meter” might be constructed, which would take into account the amount of hours wasted due to disturbances and adjournments, and track the productivity of both Houses’ day-to-day operations.
  • Democratic Participation: Not all disturbances in the House of Commons are ineffective. As a result, the current government must be more democratic and enable the opposition to express themselves freely.
  • Strengthen the Role of the Opposition: In order to strengthen the role of the opposition, the institution of shadow cabinet can be formed in India.‘Shadow Cabinet’ is a unique institution of the British cabinet system.The opposition party created it to help balance the ruling government and train its members for future ministerial positions.In such a system, each Cabinet Minister’s action must be countersigned by a shadow cabinet minister.

Conclusion:

While we can legitimately be proud of the reasonably successful working of parliament during the last five decades, Parliament is relevant only as a dynamic institution ever adjusting its functions and procedures to the changing needs of the times. If democracy and freedom are to endure, if representative institutions are to be made impregnable and if the new economic reforms and an all-round effort at liberalisation are to bear fruits, it is essential to restore to Parliament and its Members their traditional esteem and honour in the affections of the people. Reforming the Parliament in essential respects is already a categorical imperative.

Mains oriented question:

In the recent time disruption in functioning of parliament, what are the effect of such disruption? (200 words)