A parliamentary democracy or an executive democracy

Source– The post is based on the article “A parliamentary democracy or an executive democracy” published in “The Hindu” on 1st June 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Parliament and state legislatures

Relevance– Issues related to functioning of Parliament in India

News- The article explains the issue of executive dominance over legislature in case of Parliamentary democracy in India.

What are various safeguards in parliamentary democracies against executive dominance or abuse?

To enact its agenda, the executive must command a majority in Parliament. This opens the space for intra-party dissent. It provides an opportunity for ruling party parliamentarians other than cabinet members to exercise a check over the executive.

The Opposition itself is granted certain rights in Parliament, and certain limited control over parliamentary proceedings.

The interests of Parliament against the executive are meant to be represented by the Speaker. She is a neutral and independent authority.

Certain parliamentary democracies adopt bicameralism. A second “Upper House” acts as a revising chamber. The interests of minorities are represented.

How various safeguards in parliamentary democracies against executive dominance or abuse have been diluted in India?

The possibility of intra-party dissent within Parliament has been curtailed by the “anti-defection law”. The Tenth Schedule penalises disobedience of the party whip with disqualification from the House.

The Tenth Schedule has failed to curb horse-trading and unprincipled floor-crossing. It has strengthened the hand of the party leadership. Intra-party dissent is far more difficult when the price is disqualification from Parliament.

The Indian Constitution did not carve out any specific space for the political Opposition in the House. There is no equivalent of the Prime Minister’s questions, where the Prime Minister must face direct questioning.

The manner of proceedings in Parliament are under the complete control of the executive. There are no real constitutional checks upon how that control is exercised.

Speaker, in our system, is not independent. The Speaker is not required to give up membership of their political party, and not constitutionally obligated to act impartially.

Speakers at central and State levels are acting in a partisan manner to advance the interests of the executive over the interests of the House.

This has affected the quality of the deliberations in the lower house as the Speaker has control over the conduct of the House.

When the ruling party wishes to avoid effective scrutiny in the Rajya Sabha over Bills, the Speaker simply classifies the Bill as a “money bill”. This was seen in the case of the Aadhaar Act.

The role of the Upper House is undercut by the ordinance making power. An ordinance is used as a parallel process of law-making, especially when the executive wants to bypass the Upper House.

How has the constitutional design impacted the working of Parliament?

The only effective check upon the executive is fractured mandate and coalition government. In such a scenario, coalition partners can exercise checks upon the executive in Parliament.

When there is a single, majority ruling party, Parliament has limited powers.

The quality of parliamentary deliberations has declined. The situation resembles presidential systems with strong executives, but without the checks and balances.

Bills are passed with minimal or no deliberation. Parliament sits for fewer days in a year, and parliamentary sessions are often adjourned.

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