Parliament of India:An appraisal
Parliament is responsible for legislation—laws of the land—by which people govern themselves.
- The attendance in parliament is thin.
- The process of legislation is slow and lagged. There are times when it extends from one Parliament to the next.
- Laws are often passed in a rush through loud voices or large numbers.
- There is little scrutiny of draft legislation.
- There is almost no follow-up on rules when laws are put in place.
- Discourse and debate on issues of national importance is less but the agemda is guided by the media.
- Discussion are often partisan between groups where party lines are sharply drawn. Thus, differences lead to protests in the form of walk-outs or rushing to the well of the house.
- The questions asked by MPs, are pedantic, unclear or on behest.
- The governments do their best to provide as little information as possible in answers.
Many M.P.s are neither aware not interested to learn the parliamentary procedures. So they are not able to take part in parliament process.
Many of the M.P.s are from Business,media,film industry and they always give priority to their basic profession than to parliament and hardly attend the sessions.
Many of the M.P.s especially those of Rajya Sabha are not aware of any issues of their states and has nothing to discuss in parliament.
The educational level of many M.P.s is also a barrier to understand the financial,economical and technological issues so they abstain from the discussions.
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.
Parliament does not meet or work long enough.
- In the total number of sittings, disruptions took away 30% of the time in the Lok Sabha and 35% of the time in the Rajya Sabha. Both houses did sit for extra hours but that made up for a very small proportion of the time lost.
- Even when the Parliament sits and meets, there is more noise than debate, more shouting than listening, and more statements than engagement or debate.
- The duration for which Parliament meets in India, compared with other democracies, is short. In the UK, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet for more than 150 days per year. In the US, both the House of Representatives and the Senate meet for 133 days per year. In Japan, as a norm, the Diet meets for 150 days per year and this is often extended.
- The allocation of time for MPs to speak is proportional to the strength of their political party in the house and its leadership decides who gets to speak and for how long. The speaker of the Lok Sabha or the chairman of the Rajya Sabha have little discretion in the matter.
- The only other opportunities for MPs are during question hour or zero hour. Answers to unstarred questions are simply laid on the table of the house. Starred questions are too many. Only a few come up for discussion. And these are just not taken up if the concerned MP is not present at the time.
- In zero hour, the speaker or the chairman have the discretion to invite an MP to speak, but time is too little and speeches are often drowned out in pandemonium.
- MPs do not quite have the freedom to speak in our Parliament as in other democracies. For one, they are afraid of what the party leadership might think, which could affect their future. For another, party whips are a problem. Any violation of this whip could lead to an MP’s expulsion from the house.
- For the parties to select the M.Ps according their abilities rather winnability.
- Training of M.P.s to be made mandatory
- To have more days for parliament sessions
- To ensure a ninimum time for every M.P. to speak in parliament.
- The party whip should be used as minimally as possible.
We could be the world’s most vibrant democracy with the world’s least effective, and perhaps most dormant, Parliament.
It is time for MPs in India to reclaim their rights in Parliament as representatives of the people.