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Rajya Sabha MP KJ Alphons introduced a Private Member’s bill to amend Constitution’s Preamble

Rajya Sabha MP KJ Alphons introduced a Private Member’s bill to amend Constitution’s Preamble

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

Why in the news?

  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of the Rajya Sabha, K.J. Alphons, has sought to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Preamble of the Constitution.

What does Current Bill aim to achieve?

  • The Bill, titled the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021, seeks to substitute “EQUITABLE” for the word “SOCIALIST” in the Preamble to the Constitution.
  • Secondly, for the words “EQUALITY of status and opportunity”, the Bill seeks to substitute the following
    • EQUALITY of status and of opportunity to be born, to be fed, to be educated, to get a job, and to be treated with dignity,
    • ACCESS to information technology and all its implications, irrespective of caste, creed, social status, or income.
  • Third, for the words “FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”, the Bill seeks to substitute the following, namely
    • FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the community and the unity and integrity of the Nation.
    • HAPPINESS, assuring a high gross domestic happiness”.

Who is called a Private Member?

  • A private member of Parliament (MP) is a member of Parliament who is not a minister.
  • It is the obligation of the member involved to draught it. It must be introduced in the House with one month’s notice.

What are Private Member’s Bills?

  • A Bill introduced by a Member of Parliament is called Private Member’s Bill.
  • A Bill introduced by the Government is known as a Government Bill, which is introduced by one of the Ministers of the Council of Ministers.
  • Government Bills enjoy greater chances of being accepted by the House than Private Members’ Bills.
  • Government legislation can be introduced and debated on any day, however, private member bills can only be introduced and debated on Fridays.

Introduction of  Private Member’s Bills

  • Private Members may move a legislative proposal or a Bill that they think is fit to be included in the Statute Book.
  • The member may give notice of his or her Bill along with the text of the Bill to be drafted by him or her as the Secretariat may render only technical advice, if so desired, in the drafting of a Bill by a Private Member.
  • In respect of the Private Members’ Bills, the Members may not have access to expert advice, and certain procedures are regulating the consideration of such Bills.
  • The first and foremost requirement in the case of a Private Member’s Bill is that it should be within the legislative competence of the Parliament. notices of Bills are required to be accompanied by copies of the text of the Bill, together with a Statement of Objects and Reasons, duly signed by the member giving notice.
  • It must also give an estimate of recurring and non-recurring expenditures likely to be involved in case the Bill is passed into law.
  • If the Bill is one which, under the Constitution, cannot be introduced (Articles 3 and 274 of the Constitution) without the previous sanction or recommendation of the President, the member-in-charge of the Bill should annex to the notice, a copy of such sanction or recommendation as the notice is not valid until this requirement is complied with.
  • A member sends his request to the Secretariat for obtaining the recommendation of the President. The request of the member is forwarded to the Ministry concerned, which then obtains the orders of the President and communicates the same to the Secretariat.
  • On receiving an intimation regarding the President’s order through the Ministry, it is communicated to the member and published in the Bulletin by the Secretariat.

Importance of Private Members bill

  • The purpose of the private member’s bill is to draw the government’s attention to what individual MPs see as issues and gaps in the existing legal framework, which require legislative intervention.

The success rate of Such Bills

  • No Private Members’ Bills have been passed by the Parliament since 1970 (PRS Legislative Research) Of the 328 Private Members’ Bills introduced in the 14th Lok Sabha, barely four percent were discussed, while 96 percent lapsed without even a single debate in the House.
  • Only 67 MPs introduced all Private Members’ Bills in the 14th Lok Sabha. Furthermore, on average, Congress MPs introduced more Bills than their BJP counterparts.
  • The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP, Tiruchi Siva, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015 but was defeated in the Lok Sabha.
  • There are some private members’ bills, however, that has managed to bring about historic legislation or have seeded them. In 2015, MP Shashi Tharoor’s private member’s bill to decriminalize homosexuality could not be introduced in Lok Sabha. Moreover, Shahi Tharoor since from 2016-2018 introduced 16 bills and none has been passed by the parliament.

Reason for low success rate?

  • While any MP can introduce a private member bill, it is difficult to get the bill passed for several reasons-
  • Seen as an intrusion by the government- Governments have tended to view Private Member Bill’s as an intrusion by non-Ministers into their domain.
  • Perception of an incompetent government- A perception also seems to have been built that the passage of such a bill would mean that the government is incompetent and far removed from the needs of the people.
  • No majority support– Without support from the ruling party of the alliance, that command majority, it becomes impossible to pass the bill, especially in the Lok Sabha.
  • The low priority given- These bills get low priority, with both Houses allotting a fixed day and limited time slot for these bills, thus providing little time for them to be taken up for discussion.
  • Other factors
    • The individual voice of Parliamentarians does get stifled to an extent in the lawmaking process due to factors like Anti-defection law, the presence of whip, and difficulty in the passing of private member’s bills. But there have been incidences of bipartisan support to the private member bills(PMBs).
    • If a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) receives House support, the Government normally asks the Private Member to withdraw the Bill with the assurance that the Government will present a bill on the same subject. This most recently occurred in the matter of the Transgender Persons’ Rights Bill.

Way forward

  • Due to an unbalanced balance of power between the government and other Members of Parliament, including the opposition, India’s legislative process looks to be broken.
  • In this regard, it is the collective responsibility of enlightened citizens to exert pressure on Parliament and the government to reform existing procedures to recognize the importance of Private Members within Parliament.
  • Earlier governments often displayed features of bipartisanship, with the Cabinet Ministers themselves holding opposing views. This resulted in healthy debates and respect towards viewpoints held by others and therefore, a greater acceptance of Private Member legislation. Subsequent governments have not upheld this trait as much, and this shows in the way Private Member Bill’s are treated.
  • Furthermore, introducing a private member’s bill on a certain topic efficiently leads to public discussion about it and aids in the creation of a healthy democratic culture of exchange of views to reach a consensus.
  • Various countries around the world effectively empower and respect their Private Members in the legislative process.
    • For example, since 1948, 775 Private Members’ Bills have gotten Royal Assent in the United Kingdom, while the Canadian Parliament has approved 290 Private Members’ Bills to date.

Mains model Question

  • In the history of the Indian Parliament, just a few private member’s bills have been passed. What does this imply? Is a majoritarian discourse suffocating individual voices? Examine the situation critically.

References