Dwindling Sanctity of Parliament!

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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Evidently the sanctity of Parliament is dwindling even though we continue to claim that we have a vibrant parliamentary democracy.

Another session of Parliament, marked by protests and suspensions, just got over. Rather it was adjourned four days ahead of the schedule due to lack of business as hardly any time was spent to discuss and debate the bills and other important issues affecting the citizens.

The Lok Sabha functioned for just 44.5 hours making it the least productive session in the 17th Lok Sabha since the monsoon session last year which had functioned for barely 21 hours. The Rajya Sabha worked only for 38 hours.

parliamentParliament cleared only five bills and the only significant move by the government was to withdraw the much-awaited data privacy bill.

This functioning was also achieved towards only at the fag end of the session as protests and uproar marked the initial few days of the session.

The opposition parties wanted a discussion on the issue of price rise – a very legitimate issue – but the presiding officers were in no mood to relent evidently on the directions of the government.

A total of 19 members of parliament were suspended in Rajya Sabha and four in the Lok Sabha during the session for protesting against price rise and inflation in the country. Allocation of time to discuss the burning issue would have avoided such wastage of resources and time.

What is also of serious concern is the little time allocated for discussions on the bills or other issues which has led to early adjournment of the Houses over the last two years.

There were times when important bills were put to discussions over for several days so that all points of views could be heard. It was common sight to see the minister concerned taking notes when opposition members were speaking.

In fact there is a marked downward trend in the functioning of Parliament over the years. The first two decades of Parliament, first constituted in 1952 after the country’s first general elections, witnessed an average functioning of about 120 days per year of Lok Sabha and 97 days of Rajya Sabha, as per official statistics.

The pattern changed after the declaration of Emergency in 1975 by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. It followed a steady downward trend of the number of days that the Parliament was convened till the end of the last century.

However there was a dramatic sharp decline in its functioning over the last two decades.

While Lok Sabha has averaged 68 days in a year from the year 2000 to 2021, Rajya Sabha has functioned for an average of 67 days per year during the same period.

Another noticeable trend, and an unfortunate one, is that there is a gradual decline in the number of bills being passed by the two houses.

While the 13th Lok Sabha passed 302 bills, the 14th passed 261 while the 15th passed just 192. The 16th Lok Sabha passed 205 while the tally so far is 158 bills.

On the other hand there is increasing dependency on bringing out ordinances without any debate or discussions. As against nine ordinances in 2018, a total of 16 ordinances were promulgated in 2019. The next year also saw 15 ordinances while last year the number was 11.

Evidently the sanctity of Parliament is dwindling even though we continue to claim that we have a vibrant parliamentary democracy.

parliament

Though official figures are not available, it was once admitted by the government that each minute of running Parliament during sessions costs the exchequer Rs 2.5 lakh.

Ironically this figure was provided by the Congress government in 2012 when the proceedings of the two Houses was being disrupted by BJP members!

The roles are reversed now but the fact remains that the cost of running the two Houses must have gone up over the last ten years.

It is the duty of the members of parliament as well as the presiding officers of the two houses to ensure that the time of Parliament is used more productively.

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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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