Powerless MPs, MLAs: Lawmakers don’t question laws in part because anti-defection rules snuff out all dissent

Source: TOI

 Relevance: This article discusses the disruptive functioning and degrading quality of the Parliament.

Synopsis: Anti-defection rule was passed with the right intent of checking dissent. However, it is now choking the freedom of speech and expression in Parliament.

Functioning of Parliament:

Laws badly drafted by bureaucrats escape lawmakers’ scrutiny. Rush job legislations are becoming a problem to the judiciary also as bills are not properly discussed by legislators or properly scrutinized by the house committees. There are also frequent disruptions in the functioning of the house.

For example:

  • During 1st Lok Sabha (LS), there was an average of 135 sittings a year, while 16th LS has averaged 66 sittings.
  • This problem is even bigger for State Legislative Assemblies.
    • According to PRS Legislative Research, UP, Bengal, Kolkata annually-averaged 24, 40, 53 assembly sittings and 100, 122 and 306 functional hours between 2017 and 2019 respectively
  • The more worrying thing is that state assemblies pass hugely consequential laws, for example, on inter-faith marriage that is subject to no legislative interrogation.
Read more: Functioning of Parliament: Challenges and way forward – Explained, pointwise
Reasons behind lack of discussion

The root cause of this problem is the 1985 Anti- defection law that obliges MP/MLA’s to obey the party whip. Governing party MPs and MLAs cannot question bills drafted by the executive, even if they want to.

This practice is very much different from the legislative functioning in the UK & the US. There, individual legislators have the discretion to dissent over the bills, policies of their party leadership & even can force change them. They played a meaningful role in contrast to India where the legislator’s role is reduced to a yes or no.

Way Forward

Dissent and defection are not the same. Adequate space should be provided for dissent in the parliament.

Terms to know

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