Synopsis: Recent controversy on recent farm laws highlights the importance of following parliamentary procedure not just in letter but in spirit as well.
There are many benefits attached to the new farm laws for farmers and economy as well, still farm bills are facing heavy opposition. This situation could have been avoided by using parliamentary processes properly.
Even though request for an actual vote was made, 3 bills were passed by Voice vote, without any discussion with the opposition.
What are the benefits attached to farm laws?
There are strong indications that the new law is desirable and will bring in much-needed market reforms in the overregulated farm sector.
- Role of market forces: The benefits of relaxing the non-agricultural sector of the economy in 1991 established that, in the end, market forces cannot be ignored.
- No contrary evidence: There is no contrary evidence that the new proposals will adversely affect farmers in the long run.
- No justification for MSP: There is no justification for a minimum support price regardless of demand and supply.
- For instance, A pharmaceutical company doesn’t need to be assured of a minimum price for essential medicines that it produces, irrespective of whether the quantity produced far exceeds the demand.
- Experience with over-regulation: Under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, several control orders were passed on products such as cement and steel, and these were planned to ensure their availability at fair prices.
- The result was just the opposite: Severe shortages, a huge black market and massive corruption.
How the parliamentary process is being neglected?
- Even though a request for an actual vote was made, 3 bills were passed by Voice vote, without any discussion with the opposition.
- Participation of opposition: though government has a clear majority in Parliament, the Opposition is also a part of parliament. Its involvement is necessary for parliamentary procedures.
- laws are supposed to represent the “wisdom of the legislature” that involves a careful examination of their provision by select committee and members. But In fact, fewer and fewer bills are being referred to as Select Committees.
- While 71 percent of the bills were referred to a Select Committee in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14), only 25 percent were so referred in the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19).
Significance of Parliamentary Process
Parliament is at the heart of a constitutional democracy based on the Westminster model and following parliamentary procedures builds trust among the different stakeholders, other than the following benefits.
- Expertise of Select Committee: Referring the bills to a Select Committee provides assurance of scrutiny to citizens and serves the following purposes:
- A detailed deliberation on the Bill, It remains aloof from the sometimes, surcharged atmosphere prevailing in both Houses of Parliament.
- The Select Committee can, and often does, get the views of experts on the impact, particularly economic, of a proposed law.
- Preserves Constitutional morality: As per Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, the essence of constitutional morality is respect and adherence to constitutional conventions.
- Tackle the vested interests: Following constitutional conventions always pays dividends. It benefits the nation and preserves the dignity of Parliament.
- The delay that arises by following parliamentary procedures acts as a proof that the new law is apt and those opposing it have placed their short-term vested interests ahead of the national interest.
What are the steps should be taken?
- The best way to demonstrate the beneficial effects of the laws is to implement them in select states or districts for a year, before countrywide implementation.
- It is worthwhile considering the implementation of a controversial law on a trial basis. The feedback can finally prove whether the new law can achieve its objects and is beneficial to the nation.
- It can also reveal flaws in the new law. For instance, if GST had been implemented on a trial basis for select products, it would have revealed the serious technological deficiencies and the nation would have benefitted by delaying its implementation.