Context

  • Parliament is supposed to be a union of exemplary orators, but what today the working climate has been degrading in all aspects.
  • Parliamentary debates, attendance of Members of Parliament are two of the major concern.

What all is different?

  • Making a comparison with the year 1960s, when Lok Sabha use to meet for an average of 120 days in a year, loksabha in last decade, have met for an average of 70 days a year.
  • The productivity has declined, Indian Parliament lacks the power to convene itself, it should have a minimum mandated number of days to meet.
  • With the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution recommending 120 and 100 days for the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively.
  • The productivity in the 2016 winter session was 14%, while the Rajyasabha was 20%.

Issue of female representation

  • Parliament still remains partial to men, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have not seen women MPs cross the mark of 12%.
  • The Women’s Reservation Bill (108th amendment) reserving 33% of all seats in Parliament and State legislatures for women is still hanging.
  • In 2012, India ranked 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament.
  • While the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments enabled the reservation of 33% of seats in local government, political representation by women candidates saw no significant rise in the number of women MLAs in recent Assembly elections.
  • Women constitute less than 10% of the Assemblies in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry.

Issue of Bills

  • Parliament legislation is also criticized for being hastily drafted and being rushed through Parliament in an ad hoc and haphazard manner.
  • In 2008, for instance, 16 Bills were passed with less than 20 minutes of debate.
  • The non-passage of private member Bills doesn’t help either.To date, only 14 private member bills have been passed.

Anti-Defection Act

  • With no record maintained of the voting record associated with each MP, it is difficult to distinguish their individual progressive or conservative nature.
  • With Anti-Defection Act on board, MPs who deviate from their parties’ stated position gets punished.
  • The Anti-Defection Act needs to be recast, and used only in the most exceptional circumstances, while allowing MPs free rein on their self-expression.
  • Most MPs have limited or no research staff, leaving them grieving of expert in-house advice,
  • Budgetary expenses allocated for their secretarial staff and constituency expenditure leave little for conducting primary research.
  • Parliament’s Library and Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Service (LARRDIS) currently has a sanctioned strength of 231 staffers but employs 176.
  • In comparison, the Congressional Research Service, employs 600 people, of whom 400 are policy analysts, attorneys and sectoral experts, while the Congressional Budget Office has an additional 200 people.
  • Other parliaments offer funds to hire research teams for MPs. Investing in Parliament’s intellectual capital is obligatory.
  • Additional budgetary support should be provided to LARRDIS while assisting MPs in employing research staff.
  • India is in a dire need of a parliamentary budget office, which can be an independent and impartial institution devoted to conducting a technical and objective analysis of any Bill with spending or revenue raising requirements.

Conclusion

  • Indian Parliament needs a systematic approach to legislative engineering, it can assume institutional importance in this process.
  • Instead of constitutional amendments being presented to Parliament like ordinary pieces of legislation in the form of Bills, often at short notice, it would be desirable to have the committee conduct an appropriate prior scrutiny before the actual drafting of the proposal for constitutional reform.

 

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