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.