Today’s Talk on Editorials: Autonomy of Parliament
Significance: The winter session of the Parliament is postponed from its normal dates from the third week of November to mid-December this year. The delayed winter session of Parliament will be held between December 15 to January 5. It will have 14 sittings over a duration of 22 days. The opposition parties had petitioned the President of India with respect to the issue.
About Parliament: The Parliament is the supreme legislative body of India. The Indian Parliament comprises of the President and the two Houses – RajyaSabha and LokSabha. The President has the power to summon and prorogue either House of Parliament or to dissolve LokSabha. The Parliament is central to the very idea of democracy and was assigned a pivotal role in our Constitution by the founding fathers of the republic.
What Constitution says about sessions in the Parliament?: Article 85 of the Indian constitution says that the gap between two sessions of parliament should not be six months – which means the next session should be called before the completion of six months. It do not lay down any specific dates to begin or end the different sessions of the Parliament.
How the autonomy and significance of the Parliament is reduced over years?:
- Criminalisation of politics: ADR reports that 34% of the MPs in the 2014 Lok Sabha faced criminal charges, as compared with 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. The ADR data also show that, across parties, candidates facing criminal charges were more than twice as likely to win as compared to those with a clean record.
- Role of Accountability reduced: It is the function of Parliament to exercise political and financial control over the Executive and to ensure parliamentary surveillance of administration. With the postponing of Parliament sessions, the accountability mechanism is disrupted.
- Attendance: The presence of members of both Houses of Parliament – the LokSabha and the RajyaSabha – is central to their functioning.MPs are the extent of the media’s coverage of this important aspect of parliamentary functioning. On July 21, the RajyaSabha had to be adjourned without completing its business because of an insufficient number of MPs. The functioning of Parliament itself is put under question due to low attendance.
- Legislation procedure: Laws are often passed in rush with little scrutiny and no follow- up rules. In some cases, it takes sessions together for a bill to become law. Most of the bills are not passed to standing committees for further scrutiny nor put in public domain to have better policy development.Some of the laws are passed as money bills even if they do not qualify to be money bill.
- Debate,discussion and dissent: These are the basic functions of the Parliament needed for a better governance and to ensure collective responsibility. However, often it does not happen as the number of days when the parliament meets and discusses the relevant issues have also gone down.
Reasons for the present state of the Parliament:
- Overlap in priority: Most of the elected members of the party are busy in campaigning for the elections held in the state of Gujarat. The attempt by the executive to subvert the independent function of the legislature and its secretariat is unconstitutional.
- Nexus between politicians and bureaucracy: The undesirable relationship between bureaucracy and political leaders opened the door of criminalisation of politics. Also, inadequate legal mechanisms lead to promoting criminalisation of politics.
- Inadequate penal mechanisms: encourage absenteeism in the Parliament and is a threat to effective parliamentary democracy. In fact , there are only 5 MPs clock 100% attendance in Lok Sabha.
- People representative body to dynastic room: shift ownership of our Parliament from people to few entrenched dynastic oligarchs.Parliamentary hall is treated as drawing room of these oligarchs where everything is taken for granted without any code of conduct.
- Emergence of regional parties and coalition politics: These lead to diversion of matters of high national and political importance to matters of regional importance and also lead to increased use of ordinance which subvert the legislature.
Conclusion: There are multiple threats affecting the functioning of Parliament. While we are justifiably concerned about the delay in the convening of parliament, we must also pay some attention to the slow process of subversion of the legislature by the executive which will break down the edifice of the legislature itself.