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.