Updates on Parliament and state legislatures
This section will provide you with the updates on the Central Legislature and state legislatures:
Legislature News and updates
Annual review of state laws 2020 report by PRS
Synopsis: PRS Legislative Research’s “Annual review of state laws 2020” shows that the productivity and efficacy of State legislatures is poor.
- Public information on the working of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is readily available to Indian citizens because of the efforts of PRS Legislative Research.
- In contrast, the public information available on the functioning of state legislatures and their productivity has been limited.
- The good news is that PRS has now ventured into monitoring state legislatures and has recently released a report on the legislative work performed by states for the year 2020.
About Annual review of state laws report
- The report is based on data compiled from state legislature websites and state gazettes.
- It covers 19 state legislatures, including the Union Territory of Delhi, which together accounts for 90% of the population of the country.
- Some of the state’s data are not available because few states do not have a systematic way of reporting legislative proceedings and business.
Important Findings of Annual review of state laws 2020
- One, less number of working days: Pre-2020, these 19 states met for an average of 29 days a year as compared to the Parliament that met for 33 days in 2020.
- Two, lack of detailed scrutiny over Bills: For instance, in 2020, 59% of the Bills were passed on the same day that they were introduced in the legislature. A further 14% were passed within a day of being introduced.
- Whereas, In Parliament, Bills are often referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees for detailed examination. In most states, such committees are non-existent.
- Three, no uniformity in policies that are related to National interest. For instance, while some states decided to reduce salaries of the members of state legislature, some states did not take any such action to maintain financial propriety.
Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India case:
Source: Indian Express
Importance of Parliamentary Proceedings
Synopsis: Parliamentary proceedings should operate virtually to ensure the voices of all sections of the country are heard. Many other countries are doing the same.
The legislature which is the third arm of the state seems to be missing when there are as many as 306 districts now with a positivity of 20 percent or higher. The executive and the judiciary can be seen and heard in the public health emergency.
- Recently, Congress MP and its leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have written a letter to the President and the LS Speaker. They asked for a special session to discuss the response to Covid-19. This marked Parliament’s absence in the crisis.
- Earlier, Mallikarjun Kharge had sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the RS chairman. He asked for virtual parliamentary standing committee meetings.
How has the world responded to the functioning of parliament and opposition suggestions amid a pandemic?
For instance, many other democracies across the world have found ways for their parliaments to carry on gathering amid the pandemic.
- Firstly, some democracies used conventional ways and continued to meet physically, but with restrictions. Some switched to virtual meetings with the help of technologies that allowed remote working.
- Secondly, the UK has adopted hybrid models. In this, a mix of members is present in the chamber and others participate by video conference. Many states have had to change laws and relax procedures, reset minimum number rules, and rearrange venues.
- In India, the government showed little or no urgency for parliamentary proceedings. It has shown high resistance to suggestions and interferences by Opposition leaders.
- For example, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suggestions were quickly disregarded by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan earlier.
- Firstly, it is very important for governments to listen, learn and correct errors to find the best way forward. The response to a national health crisis needs the participation of all the people’s representatives, across states and party.
- Secondly, the virus has brought death and distress to every constituency. To battle this, MPs must group ideas and resources, ask questions and apply the check and balance.
- Thirdly, the House should reopen its doors virtually to ensure that the executive does not remain limited to echo chambers of its own making.
- In a shared crisis, one-sided responses are terribly insufficient and even counter-productive. Parliament must return as a space for a wider discussion. The government must take the lead and make this happen.
Source: click here
Misuse of Ordinance Making Power
Synopsis: Ordinance Making Power by the executives has increasingly been misused. A vigilant Legislature and Court can reduce this menace.
- Recently, the central government re-promulgated the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020
- This raises questions over the constitutional validity of issuing ordinances and that of re-promulgating ordinances, that too without their ratification by the Parliament.
About Ordinance making power of executives
- Article 123 and Article 213 empowers the central and state governments to make laws when Parliament or the State Legislature are not in session.
- The Constitution states that the ordinance will lapse at the end of six weeks from the time Parliament or the State Legislature next meets.
- Originally, it was conceived as an emergency provision and was expected to be used rarely.
Misuse of the Ordinance making power
- One, the number of Ordinance issued by the centre has increased from an average of 7.1 per year in the 1950s to 15 in 2020.
- Two, States have also been using the ordinance route to enact laws. For example, in 2020, Kerala issued 81 ordinances, while Karnataka issued 24 and Maharashtra 21.
- Three, further repromulgation of Ordinance by both centre and state is also increasing. For instance, The Indian Medical Council Amendment Ordinance by the centre and Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology by Kerala are two recent examples.
What is the court’s view regarding promulgation and promulgation of the Ordinance?
- In the D.C. Wadhwa case, the court took up the issue of promulgation of 256 ordinances, of which 69 were repromulgated in Bihar between 1967 and 1981.
- The supreme court ruled that repromulgation of ordinances is against Constitutional morality and is an act of Colourable legislation. Because through ordinance making power the Executive encroaches into the law-making function of the Legislature.
- Further, the court said that there was no such practice of repromulgation by the centre.
- Later, the Centre too started to follow the lead of Bihar. For example, in 2013 and 2014, the Securities Laws Ordinance promulgated 3 times, Land Acquisition Act twice.
- In 2017, the matter came up again in the Supreme Court. This time, the court gave a strong verdict. It declared that Re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes.
- However, the Centre and states are not following this judgement. It is evident in the current case of the Commission for Air Quality Management.
The principle of Separation of Powers and Checks and balances empowers the legislatures and the courts to check the encroachment of the Executive. However, by allowing for repromulgation of ordinances, the Legislature and the court are abdicating their responsibility to the Constitution.
Source: The Hindu
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.
- 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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021: it aims to increase the limit of foreign direct investment in insurance companies from 49% to 74%.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Job reservation in private sector for locals – Explained, pointwise
Recently Haryana government notified its Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020. This bill provides job reservation in the private sector for locals.
Prior to Haryana, States such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh also tried to provide reservation in private jobs. Now the question is whether it is a constitutionally or legally correct move by the state government to provide job reservation in the private sector or not?
About Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020
- It provides for a 75 per cent job quota for local people in private sector jobs which offer a salary of less than Rs. 50,000 a month.
- The law applies to private companies, societies, trusts, and partnership firms, among others, located in the state. Furthermore, it is applicable to organizations having 10 or more employees.
- Firms and companies need to register all of their employees receiving a gross salary of Rs 50,000 or less on a government portal and update it at regular intervals.
- It will be applicable to the new job openings only and won’t affect the outsiders already working in the private sector.
- An exemption can be claimed by employers when there enough number of local candidates are not available with the desired skills, qualifications, and proficiency. However, an officer of the rank of deputy commissioner or higher will evaluate such a claim.
- Penalty for non-compliance ranges from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 2,00,000 rupees.
- A domicile certificate would be mandatory for the candidate seeking benefit under the law.
Other states tried to provide reservation in private jobs to locals
- The MP government in 2018 made it mandatory to give 70% of jobs to locals. But this law was not implemented on the private companies as a whole.
- Andhra Pradesh also passed a law to provide job reservation for locals. It reserved 75% private jobs across all categories in industrial units, factories, joint ventures as well as Public-Private Projects. The law passed by the Andhra Pradesh assembly is currently challenged in the court and the court is yet to decide on it.
- The Karnataka government also approved a new industrial policy (2020-2025) in 2020. The policy aims to give minimum employment of 70 per cent employment to Kannada people on an overall basis. Further, the reservation went up to 100 per cent in the case of Group C and Group D employees.
Rationale behind such reservation in private jobs
- The objective is to empower the local youth by giving them better jobs.
- In recent times, the government was not able to generate sufficient employment. So, reservations in private jobs are seen as essential to avoid higher unemployment among local people.
- Since the private sector uses public infrastructure in many ways like subsidized allotment of land, tax exemptions etc. The state has a legitimate right to require them to comply with the reservation policy.
- The Supreme Court in its earlier judgements has supported domicile reservation in education. So, the state governments assume that the court will allow similar reservations in private jobs as well.
- Globally also many countries allow such reservation in private jobs. For example,
- The US Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows the courts to order monetary damages and relief, for victims of discrimination(i.e local people).
- The Employment Equity Act in Canada also protects minority groups from job deprivation. The Act protects the native people from discrimination in all the federally regulated industries, even in the private sector.
Legal Provisions related to reservations in employment
The constitution under Article 16 and Article 371 mentions the Reservation in jobs.
- Under Article 16, there were 3 sub-clauses dealing with the job reservation. They are,
- 16(1): It provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to ’employment or appointment’ to any office under the State.
- 16(2): It provides that there cannot be any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them.
- 16(3): It provides an exception by saying that Parliament may make a law “prescribing” a requirement of residence for jobs in a particular state. This power vests solely in the Parliament, not state legislatures.
- Article 371: Some states have special protections under Article 371. Andhra Pradesh under Section 371(d) has powers to have “direct recruitment of local cadre” in specified areas.
Supreme Court Judgements regarding reservation in private jobs
- Dr. Pradeep Jain v Union of India (1984) case: The Supreme Court discussed the issue of legislation for “sons of the soil”. Further, The court held an opinion that such policies would be unconstitutional but did not expressly rule on it.
- Sunanda Reddy v State of Andhra Pradesh (1995) case: The Supreme Court repeated its earlier interpretation in Dr Pradeep Jain case. Further, the court strikes down the state government policy that gave 5% extra weightage to candidates who had studied with Telugu as the medium of instruction.
- The Rajasthan government gave preference to “people belonging to the concerned district or the rural areas of that district” in appointments. But, in 2002 the Supreme Court invalidated the appointment of government teachers in Rajasthan.
- In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck down a recruitment notification issued by the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection Commission. The commission prescribed preference for women who were original residents of the state in job appointments.
Concerns associated with reservation in private jobs
- Delaying Economic Recovery: The pandemic scenario has made it imperative for states to focus on fast and effective economic recovery. However, compulsion on companies to employ locals might compromise quality and delay the recovery phase.
- Discourage Investment: Compulsions to employ decreases the competitiveness of companies. Apart from that, such measures directly discourage investment potential in a state.
- Impracticability: The shortage of qualified workers in a state may impact its implementation. And also, the private sector cannot employ outsiders without the permission of concerned authorities. It might lead to the inspector raj prior to 1991 economic reforms.
- A threat to unity: This step would create friction among locals and non-locals in the implementing states. This will shake the fundamental of Indian democracy(Unity in Diversity) in long run.
- Against constitutional provisions: These laws are against the spirit of constitutional provisions:
- Article 14 allows for equality before the law. But the reservations to locals are against that equality.
- Reservation to locals also violates Article 19(1)(g) is violated by Haryana’s law as outsiders won’t be able to effectively do any job of their choice in the state.
- Article 16(3) allows reservation based on the residence by a parliamentary law in matters of public employment and not in private employment.
- Against the reservation ceiling: Giving 75% reservation goes against the Supreme court’s ceiling of 50% for maintaining meritocracy.
- The Supreme court must define the question on the reservation in private jobs. If permitted then the constitutional limit of 50% reservation cannot be allowed to breach by State government laws.
- The law passed by the Andhra Pradesh assembly is already challenged in court. So, the supreme court has to define a clear stand on the reservation in private jobs.
- There should be voluntary encouragement as various companies are already having 50-60% employees from the local state only (under the salary of 50000 per month).
- The State government should focus on better education delivery, greater job creation and skill enhancement. It will make companies to employ more local youth automatically.
Giving reservations in jobs is only a temporary solution, the need of the hour is to focus on better job creation and skill development. A further idea of local reservation also goes against the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ that demands an integrated and mobile labour market within the country.
Problems associated with Anti Defection Law
Synopsis: The problems associated with Anti defection law got highlighted again in the Puducherry assembly issue. The law was unable to provide stability to the ruling government which led to the imposition of president rule in the state.
- Some MLAs from the ruling government resigned from the Puducherry assembly. This eventually resulted in the imposition of the president’s rule.
- This is not only the case with Puducherry, similar instances have been seen in the past in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as well. Due to that, experts are now pointing towards the flaws of Anti defection law.
About Anti Defection Law:
- The 10th schedule was added to the constitution by the 52nd amendment in 1985. This deals with the Anti defection process.
- The objective behind such a law was to prevent political defections and provide stability to the ruling government.
- As per the 10th schedule, a member can be disqualified if he/she votes contrary to his party directions. The speaker/chairman is the final deciding authority in this regard.
- The law is applicable to Parliament as well as state legislatures. Further, any person disqualified for defecting cannot get a ministerial position unless he/she gets re-elected.
Problems with Anti Defection Law:
- First, the MPs or MLAs are supposed to act as per the party’s command and not by their own judgment. This undermines representative democracy as they are unable to put forward the demands of the people.
- Second, the scope of defection is very wide as it is applicable to every bill. It is not restricted to important bills only like no-confidence motion, money bill, etc. moreover, it is also applicable to members of Rajya Sabha and legislative councils which don’t have a say in the stability of the government.
- Third, it ensures that legislators are accountable to the party and not to voters. Thereby it reduces their status to mere party agents.
- Fourth, the elected legislators are unable to ensure independent accountability of the executive. They scrutinise the working as per the collective opinion of the party. This is against the spirit of the Parliamentary system which was adopted to ensure robust accountability.
- Fifth, the Anti Defection Law also erodes the constructive role of legislatures. Fruitful discussion and debates can’t happen when the legislators are not allowed to freely express their opinions.
- Sixth, the stability of the government is hampered when multiple resignations are used to topple it as seen in the case of Puducherry. The anti defection law fails to prevent such a thing.
- Lastly, there is no time limit in which the speaker/chairman takes a call on disqualification. This has led to the creation of unusual situations like opposition members taking ministerial positions as seen in the last Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly term.
- The scope of anti defection law needs to be re-examined. It will enable the MPs to perform the dual role as a delegate of the constituency and a national legislator effectively.
- For example, in the recent vote on the impeachment of former U.S. President Donald Trump, seven members from his party voted to remove him.
- The voters should be more cautious while casting their votes. Many defectors in States such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh got re-elected in the by-polls, thereby encouraging them to do future defections.
- The speaker/chairman should give decisions within 3 months as advised by the Supreme court.
- The ultimate solution to defection lies in the creation of robust exit barriers by political parties. It includes an opportunity to rise on merits within a party rather than on inheritance.
To sum up, we can say that the anti defection law has been unable to control the defections. It has reduced the accountability of executives by the legislatures and been unable to provide the desired stability to the elected government.
Right to discussion of State Assemblies and Supreme Court interference
Synopsis: Recently Facebook India head appealed in the Supreme Court against the summon by Delhi Assembly. SC should avoid any interference in the assembly’s right to discussion on important public matters.
A few months ago, the Delhi Legislative assembly issued a notice to the head of Facebook India, Ajit Mohan. The notice was for him to appear in front of the Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee. This committee is investigating the Delhi Riots.
Ajit Mohan filed a petition against this notice in Supreme Court. Hearing on this case is ongoing.
This petition will have implications on the separation of powers, federalism and fundamental rights in India.
Why Court should not interfere in Assembly’s right to discussion
Set of rights and immunities granted to Parliament are called Parliamentary privileges. The House of Commons has been granted the right to free speech and the right to call for evidence and witnesses in the House since 1689. Both Parliament and State Assemblies are granted with same privileges.
There are some misleading doubts that State Assemblies are on par with parliament on these matters.
- Firstly, discussion in legislatures are not only a part of law-making, it is also used in its non-judicial power of inquiry. This inquiry power is inherent to the legislature as it is the voice of the people of the state. For example, states inquire into the possible ecological implications of a nuclear waste site within the State. States often hear testimony from soldiers and pass resolutions to honour the armed forces.
- Secondly, it is not necessary that all discussions lead to lawmaking. Some discussions end with the arguments only. Thus, the interference of courts before the conclusion of the debate will be pointless.
- Third, Co-operative federalism cannot be promoted if assemblies are barred from even discussing matters, which are beyond their legislative competence.
- Fourth, Judiciary ought not to enter the domain where it will examine the proceedings of the house. It is against the separation of power.
- Fifth, the experiences of Canada and Australia in this matter also, go against any Court mandated restrictions on legislative competence.
Free speech in the house is a landmark of liberty. It allows elected representatives on behalf of people to challenge the most powerful people of the land. It would be incorrect if the Court appoints itself as an arbiter of legislative discussions.
The trend of Undermining the Role of Upper House
Synopsis: The ruling party who dominates the lower house is sometimes seen undermining the role of the Upper House. Such an approach dilutes the principle of bicameralism and undermines the spirit of the constitution.
- The recent passage of the Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill in Karnataka’s legislative council has attracted criticism.
- The reason for criticism is the bill was passed through a voice vote in place of a division vote as demanded by the opposition.
- The opposition parties had a majority and didn’t support the bill. This has created an impression that the bill was passed without majority support.
Instruments to undermine the Upper House:
- First, the use of voice vote undermines the majority of opposition members in the upper house. In this process, the presiding officer gives a decision as per his judgment, because the names or numbers of legislators voting on each side are not recorded.
- A similar thing was seen in the passing of controversial farm laws by Rajya Sabha in 2020.
- Second, the presiding officer sometimes declares a bill as a ‘money bill’ even if it is not covered under the definition of a money bill.
- As the second house can only give recommendations on it and can’t stop its passage.
- For Example, Aadhar, electoral bonds, retrospective validation of foreign political contribution, etc. passed as money bills.
- Third, the government promulgates the ordinance and frequently re-promulgates it.
- This is an abuse of temporary legislative power given to the executive who tries to give it permanency by re-promulgation.
- The objective is to forbid the second house from performing its constitutional role as the majority is already enjoyed in the lower house.
Role of Upper House:
- First, it gives credible second opinions on bills introduced by the ruling party in the lower house.
- Second, to prevent the country from the brute will of the majority of one party in the lower house. This becomes crucial as even the courts are barred from intervening in the legislative process.
- Third, it duly represents the interests of states at the national level. Rajya Sabha is representative of all the Indian states.
- Fourth, it upholds the principle of separation of powers in a robust way. The majority of the executive is often chosen from lok sabha by the ruling party. This allows the executive domination over the legislature and easily passes bills in Lok Sabha.
- The speaker/chairman of the house must act in the spirit of positive morality. It would allow him to function objectively.
- The demands of opposition should be respected. For example, division vote instead of voice vote should be used.
- The money bill issue can be rightly tackled if SC hearing the case over its misuse, gives its verdict in due time.
- The executive and ruling party must respect the dissent of the Second chamber as done in case of repeal of the 42nd amendment.
- Janta Government was not able to completely repeal it as Congress enjoyed a significant majority in Rajya Sabha.
- Greater focus on debates and discussions should be done rather than solely focusing on quick passing of bills.
- The Parliament was not convened for a long time during the pandemic and later got convened after suspending the question hour so that swift passage can happen. This approach needs to change.
Importance of Abiding by the Parliamentary Processes
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.
Synopsis: Following the Democratic Parliamentary Process is more important than enforcing the will of the majority.
- Nearly 20 Opposition parties boycotted the recent (2021) President’s address to a joint sitting of Parliament.
- Further, the Opposition is planning to move a joint motion demanding a repeal of the three Farm laws in the coming Budget session of Parliament.
- The boycott is indicative of the worsening relationship between the government and the Opposition.
- The last time the Opposition boycotted the President’s Address was in November 2019 during the celebration of the Constitution Day.
- Regarding the Farm Bill, the President said that the government will keep the farm Bills on hold as per a Supreme Court directive. But the speech had no indication of reconsideration of the laws.
What is the way forward?
- Government should follow the democratic route of getting Parliamentary approval for Ordinances. Because democratic processes are more important than enforcing the will of the majority.
- The ordinances promulgated during the pandemic time should be put in front of Parliament for detailed discussion.
- Though, the government has advantages over the Opposition, in terms of the numerical strength in both Houses of Parliament. But a democracy cannot be run alone by the executive, without any accountability. Parliament and opposition function as a check on the powers of the executive.
The government needs to hold the high standards that India has set for itself as a democracy. Hence, Discussion, Debate, Deliberation should be the way forward.
Procedure and importance of President’s Address in Parliament
Source: Indian Express
Gs2: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.
Synopsis: The History, Procedure & tradition and format of President’s address in Parliament.
- The first Parliament session for 2021 is set to begin. It is the constitutional mandate for the President (Ram Nath Kovind) to address the 1st session of the members of both Houses of Parliament, every year.
- It is the only occasion in the year when the entire Parliament, i.e., the President, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha come together, in a normal situation.
- This process of President’s address every year during its 1st session has its own history, tradition, and procedures.
History: Before Independence
- In India, the practice of the President addressing Parliament can be traced back to the Government of India Act of 1919. This law gave the Governor-General the right to address the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State.
- But the Government of India Act of 1919 did not have any provision for a joint address.
History: After independence
- After the Constitution came into force, it empowered the President to address either House or a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
- For the first time on January 31, 1950, President Rajendra Prasad addressed members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- According to article 87 of the constitution, the President needs to address a joint sitting on two special occasions
- The first is to address the opening session of a new legislature after each general election.
- The second is to address the first sitting of Parliament each year.
- It has to be noted that, Article 87(1) originally required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of every session.
- However, The First Amendment to the Constitution in 1951 changed this position and made the President’s address once a year.
Format for the President’s speech
- Currently, The address of the President follows a general structure. It highlights the government’s accomplishments from the previous year and sets the broad governance agenda for the coming year.
- The government also uses the President’s address to make policy and legislative announcements. For example,
- In 1996, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s (13-day) government used the president’s address to announce its intention of giving statehood to Uttaranchal and Vananchal (Jharkhand) and 33 percent reservation to women in legislatures.
- In 2004, After the devastating tsunami of, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government used the President’s Address to announce the creation of a national law for disaster management.
- And in 2015, the Narendra Modi governments used the president’s address to announce its plan to fast pace financial sector reforms.
Motion of Thanks: Procedure & tradition
- Following the President’s address, a motion of thanks is moved in the two Houses by the ruling MP’s. The deliberations on this motion last for three to four days.
- During this period, MPs of both the Houses will have a broad debate on governance in the country.
- Following the debate, The Prime Minister will reply to the motion of thanks in both Houses and responds to the issues raised by MPs.
- Then the motion is put to vote and MPs can express their disagreement by moving amendments to the motion.
- Such amendments may be used for including some issues or highlighting some issues which did not find mention in the speech.
- Opposition MPs have been successful in getting amendments passed to the motion of thanks in Rajya Sabha on five occasions (1980, 1989, 2001, 2015, 2016). But it has been less successful in Lok Sabha.
- Also, it has to be noted that the motion of Thanks must be passed in both of the houses.
- A failure to get a motion of thanks passed (which may rarely happen) amounts to the defeat of the government.
- Hence, Motion of thanks is sometimes deemed as no-confidence motion.
When passed Bills do not convert into functioning laws?
Why in News?
Over the years, Parliament has repealed several laws. But there have also been examples when the government has not brought an already passed law into force.
Few such Examples
- Two such examples are the National Environment Tribunal Act and the Delhi Rent Control Act which Parliament passed in 1995 but had never brought these laws into force.
- Further, there are also multiple instances where a law specifies when it will come into effect. The 2013 land acquisition law put an outer limit of three months for the Centre to bring it into force after the President approved it.
Bringing/removing a law: Parliament has the power to make a law and to remove it from the statute books (Judiciary can also strike down a law if it is unconstitutional). But the passing of a Bill does not mean that it be implemented from the next day. There are more steps, for it to become a functioning law:
First Step, President’s Assent:
- Article 111 of the Constitution specifies that the President can either sign off on the Bill or withhold his assent. However, the Constitution does not specify a time limit for the President to approve a Bill.
- The President rarely withholds assent to a Bill. The last time it happened was in 2006 when President A P J Abdul Kalam refused to sign a Bill protecting MPs from disqualification for holding an office of profit.
- A Bill is sent to Parliament for reconsideration if the President withholds his or her assent on it. And if Parliament sends it back to the President, he has no choice but to approve it.
Second Step, giving effect to a Law:
- It is deciding the date on which the law comes into effect. In the majority of cases, Parliament delegates the power to determine this date, to the government.
Third Step, Farming Rules & regulations
- A passed Bill is just an outline of a law. For the law to start working on the ground, a ministry or department needs to be empowered to administer it.
- The implementing ministry also needs to finalize forms to gather information and provide benefits or services. These day-to-day operational details are called rules and regulations.
- Government is responsible for framing rules and regulations. If the government does not frame them, the law or any parts of it, will not get implemented. The Benami Transactions Act of 1988 is an example of a complete law remaining unimplemented in the absence of regulations.
Source: Indian Express
Issue of summoning state legislature and their performance
Synopsis: Conflicts like the one in Kerala over the power to summon the state legislature, will only add up to the already dismal performance of sessions of state legislatures.
Issue of summoning the sessions in state legislature:
The events in Kerala and Rajasthan are an abnormality.
- Kerala Event: Lately, Kerala government recommended governor for summoning the state’s legislature for a one-day session to discuss the issue of farmers’ protest, but recommendation was turned down by governor on the ground that there is no emergent situation to meet the assembly on such short notice.
- Event in Rajasthan: The Rajasthan governor had rejected the recommendation of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s government to call a session for proving the majority of his government.
- Constitutional Provision: The state government is constitutionally empowered to call a session of the legislature.
- The dates and the duration of the session is decided by the council of ministers.
- Governor is communicated of their decision, who is constitutionally bound to act on most matters on the aid and advice of the government.
- The state legislature is then summoned by governor to meet for a session.
Such conflicts between the governor and the government are hurdles in the functioning of state legislators, which are already suffering from dismal performances.
Performance of state legislatures
The data as follows depicts the dismal performance of the state legislature in their functioning;
- Number of assembly meetings: In the last 20 years, state assemblies across the country, on average, met for less than 30 days in a year. But states like Kerala, Odisha, Karnataka are an exception.
- The Kerala Vidhan Sabha, for example, has on average met for 50 days every year for the last 10 years.
- Performance of state legislatures: Legislatures meet for longer budget sessions at the beginning of the year. Then for the rest of the year fewer meetings are held just to meet the constitutional requirement that there should not be a gap of six months between two sessions of a legislature.
What are the reasons for decline in the sitting days of the state legislature?
The blame for the decline in the sitting days of the state legislatures rests with the government.
- Interest of government: Legislatures are grounds for debate and giving voice to public opinion. As accountability institutions, they are responsible for asking tough questions to the government and highlighting uncomfortable truths.
- So, it is in the interest of a state government to organize lesser sittings of the legislature and bypass their inquiry.
- Not enough time: Lesser number of sitting days also means that state governments are free to make laws through ordinances and when they assemble legislatures, there is little time for MLAs to inspect laws brought before them.
What can be done?
Continuous and close scrutiny by legislatures is essential for improving governance in the country.
- Increasing the number of working days for state legislatures is a first step in increasing their effectiveness. One way to do that is by assembling legislatures to meet all around the year.
- In many mature democracies, a fixed calendar of sittings of legislatures, with breaks in between, is announced at the beginning of the year. It allows the government to plan its calendar for bringing in new laws.
- It also has the advantage of increasing the time for debate and discussion in the legislative assembly. And with the legislature sitting throughout the year, it gets rid of the politics surrounding the convening of sessions of a legislature.
A look at how Parliament sessions are convened?
Source: Click here
News: Government has decided to cancel the Winter session of Parliament, citing fears over a surge in cases due to covid-19 pandemic.
- Constitution on Summoning of Parliament: The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution.Like many other articles, it is based on the provision of Government of India Act,1935.
- Power to convene Session: The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the Government.The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs which is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
- Parliamentary Calendar: India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar.By convention (i.e. not provided by the Constitution), Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
- The longest, Budget Session(1st session) starts towards the end of January and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
- The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
- Winter Session(3rd session) is held from November to December.
Terms associated with Sessions of Parliament:
- Adjournment: Termination of the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting.
- Adjournment sine die – Termination of a sitting of the House without any definite date being fixed for the next sitting.
- Prorogation: It means the termination of a Session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. The Prorogation of the House may take place any time even while the House is sitting.However, prorogation usually follows the adjournment of the sitting of the House sine die.
- Dissolution: It means the end of the life of the Lok Sabha either by an order made by the President under article 85 (2) (b) of the Constitution or on the expiration of the period of five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.Dissolution puts an end to the representative character of the individuals who at the time compose the Lok Sabha.
Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs)
Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs)
News: In the current Lok Sabha, 17 Bills were referred to committees.
Parliamentary Committees are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume.
- Constitutional Provision: Indian Constitution mentions two kinds of parliamentary committees under Article 118 (1) of the constitution-
- Standing Committees
- Ad Hoc Committees
- Departmentally Related Standing Committees:
- These are committees that examine bills, budgets and policies of ministries. DRSCs were first formed in 1993.
- There are 24 such committees and between them, they focus on the working of different ministries.
- Each committee has 31 MPs, 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
- They have a tenure of one year, then they are reconstituted and their work continues throughout the term of a Lok Sabha.
- These members are to be nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha respectively.
- Ministers are not members; key committees like those related to Finance, Defence, Home etc are usually chaired by Opposition MPs.
- Functions: DRSCs perform three important functions: examine Bills referred to them; select specific topics related to the ministries and examine implementation by the Government; and examine the budgetary outlays of the departments.
- Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC): They are constituted for a specific purpose, with MPs from both Houses.
- Select Committee: They are formed for examining a particular Bill and its membership is limited to MPs from one House. Example: In 2019, Rajya Sabha referred the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 to a Select Committee of 23 of its MPs from different parties.
Functions of Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs)
- DRSCs help Parliament in managing its business better. A committee of 30 is in a better position to examine a topic in-depth than by an assembly of 700.
- They enable input from experts and those who may be directly affected by a policy or legislation. For example, the DRSCs often invite comments from the public and call people to testify.
- Members can discuss issues and reach consensus in the committees without worrying about constituency pressures as it is outside direct public glare.
- Anti-defection law does not apply to committees — therefore, decisions can be made out of the party lines.
- Finally, due to specified areas members are able to build their expertise in that, which helps them scrutinise issues more thoroughly.
- When does a committee examine a Bill? A bill can reach a committee for examination in three ways:
- When the minister piloting the Bill recommends to the House that his Bill be examined by a Select Committee of the House or a joint committee of both Houses.
- If the minister makes no such motion, it is up to the presiding officer of the House to decide whether to send a Bill to a departmentally related Standing Committee.
- A Bill passed by one House can be sent by the other House to its Select Committee.
- Result of sending a bill to a Committee:
- The committee undertakes a detailed examination of the Bill. It invites comments and suggestions from experts, stakeholders and citizens. It then provides a report recommending measures to strengthen the bill.
- The report of the committee is of a recommendatory nature.
Performance of the Parliament
Performance of the Parliament
In news: The decision to drop “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution.
Brief Overview of the Indian Parliament:
The Parliament is the legislative organ of the Union government. The Indian Parliament comprises of the President and the two Houses – Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha (House of the People). The President of India is the constitutional head of the executive. The Constitution describes the structure of parliament in Article 79.
Important Constitutional Provisions:
- Article 79: Constitution of Parliament.
- Article 80: Composition of The Council of States
- Article 81: Composition of The House of The People
Performance of the Parliament:
- Parliament Sittings: Over the years, there has been a decline in the number of sittings of the Parliament. The Lok Sabha met for an average of 130 days in a year during the 1950s. However, these sittings reduced to 70 days in the 2000s.
- Question Hour: It allows Members of Parliament (MPs)to pose questions to ministers relating to government policies, and hold the government accountable for its actions. Between 2009 and 2014, Question Hour functioned for an average of 42% of its scheduled time. Between 2015 and 2019, the Lok Sabha could use just 61% of its total allotted time for Question Hour.
- Less time spent on discussing budgets and bills: the time spent on discussing the Budget has reduced from an average of 123 hours in the 1950s to 39 hours in last 10 years.
- Debates and Motions: MPs raise issues of public importance in Parliament, and examine the government’s response to problems being faced by citizens through two methods:
- Debate: The number of debates has decreased over the years. (Check infographic)
- Motion: There is a declining trend of these motion being effectively used by the opposition. (See infographic)
- Disruptions: Between 2012-2016, disruptions resulted in loss of 30% of the time in the Lok Sabha and 35% of the time in the Rajya Sabha. In last budget session, the number of productive hours was 53 hourse.
- Sittings: From 2014 to 2019, it held 18 sessions and 329 sittings and passed 154 Bills — which comes to less than one Bill in two sitting
- Legislative Output: In 2009-2014, it cleared 188 Bills and in 2004-09 it cleared 251 Bills.
- Question hour: The Rajya Sabha in 2015-19, used only about 40% of the total time available for question hour.
Performance of Parliamentary Committees
- Decrease in Sittings: Over the year, sittings of most of the Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSC) have decreased.
- Attendance of Members: Success of the Committee system depends on the participation of Members. Between 2009 and 2014, in the 16 DRSCs serviced by the Lok Sabha, on average, only 49% members were present for meetings.
- Referring of Bills: During the period of 16th Lok Sabha only 27% Bills were referred to Committees. This number is significantly lower than previous two Lok Sabhas.
- Other issues impacting the performance:
- Politicisation: Over the last few years, committee members have been following strict party lines in committee meetings.
- Lack of inclusion of experts: Committees examine issues that are technical in nature. However, at present committees lack expertise and research support.
- Tenure for members: At present, the members are nominated to a Standing Committee for one year. This hinders development of technical expertise on a particular subject and better deliberation.