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Declining Role of Parliament in Ensuring Accountability of Executive

Synopsis: Parliament needs to ensure scrutiny over the actions and bills passed by the government. Its role is declining in ensuring the accountability of the executive.

Background
  • Parliament sessions are ending prematurely due to various reasons. For example, the recent budget session of the parliament ended two weeks ahead of the original plan.
  • Partly the impact of the pandemic led to the reduction of the Budget session of 2020 and the monsoon session of the parliament.
  • However, during the pandemic, the parliament could have adopted remote working and technological solutions, similar to other countries.
  • The result was, the fiscal year 2020-21 witnessed the lowest ever parliamentary sessions. The Lok Sabha (34 days), the Rajya Sabha (33 days).
  • Unproductive parliament sessions resulted in a lack of public scrutiny over government functioning, financial expenditures, and government bills.
What are the issues associated with the functioning of the parliament?
  1. First, declining Parliament’s responsibility to scrutinize important Bills passed by the parliament. For example, During the last session, 13 Bills were introduced, and none of them was referred to the parliamentary committee for examination. The important bills introduced are
    1. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021: It aims to shift the governance from the legislature and the Chief Minister to the Lieutenant Governor.
    2. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021: it aims at removing end-use restrictions on mines and ease conditions for captive mines.
    3. The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) Bill, 2021: it aims to create a new government infrastructure finance institution and permit private ones in this sector.
    4. The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021: it aims to increase the limit of foreign direct investment in insurance companies from 49% to 74%.
  2. Second, the role played by parliamentary committees was undermined. Parliamentary committees are instrumental in suggesting constructive changes to the bill to make the Code work better. For example, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Motor Vehicles Act.
      • The percentage of Bills referred to committees declined from 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha and just 11% in the current one.
  3. Third, diminishing the role of Rajya Sabha by classifying ordinary bills as money bills. For example,
      • Non-financial items such as restructuring of tribunals, the introduction of electoral bonds, and amendments to the foreign contribution act introduced as part of Finance bills.
  4. Fourth, lack of debate, discussion over the demand for grants. For example,
      • In the last budget session, the Lok Sabha had only listed the budget of just five Ministries for detailed discussion and only three of these were discussed. The remaining 76% of the total budget was approved without any discussion.
      • Whereas, the Constitution requires the Lok Sabha to approve the expenditure Budget of each department and Ministry.
  5. Fifth, delay in appointments of key constitutional functionaries in Lok Sabha also impacted parliamentary functioning. For example,
      • the current Lok Sabha did not appoint a Deputy Speaker which is a constitutional mandate.
What is the way forward?

The central role of the Parliament is to scrutinize the work of the government. In order to fulfill its constitutional mandate, the parliament has to

  • Create an effective research support system to aid Members of Parliament.
  • Provide sufficient time for MPs to examine issues.
  • Parliamentary Committees should be made to examine the Bills and budgets.
  • Finally, Public feedback should be taken before finalising the bill.

Source: The Hindu

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