The parliament of India is the ultimate seat of power of legislators and policy making. It was first assembled under the same roof in Lutyen’s Delhi as today on 9 December, 1946 after the cabinet commission had been partially agreed to by Indian leaders. The glory and history of parliament is the evidence of blood and sweat of constitution makers and years and years of struggle to do what it takes to govern the largest democracy in the world.
Indian parliament is bicameral in nature, which means it has two houses. The upper i.e. the Rajya Sabha and the lower house i.e. the Lok Sabha. The lower house consists of leaders elected by direct elections through adult suffrage in general elections. These magnanimous elections are conducted by the Election Commission, as mentioned in the Article 324 (1) of the Constitution of India. The country is divided in to constituencies as per recommendations of Delimitation Commission based on census. The parties are allotted symbols by election commission and must adhere to model code of conduct as prescribed.
Article 324(1) in The Constitution Of India 1949
(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President held under this Constitution shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission)
All this culminates into what is called, the festival of democracy – elections. This process elects legislators to the lower house of the parliament. These directly elected members are accountable to the electors and their respective constituencies. Bills i.e. the draft plans of policies due to become Acts are discussed in the parliament. Debate, discussions and deliberations lie at the core of decision making. The process leading to discussion may further be extended by scrutiny by standing or ad hoc parliamentary committees. Later on assent of president is obtained for final approval.
Sometimes, the deliberations are skipped due to lack of time. But it’s always better to at least have a discussion rather than completely guillotining – suddenly denying the discussions and passing bills. In the recent times of covid-19 crisis, few bills have been passed in haste due to lack of time and discussion panel availability. Guillotine as a device of parliament was used extensively at the time of the government of the then Prime Minister hon’ble Indira Gandhi. She has had her share of criticism. What must be considered today is that we must not let history repeat mistakes.
Recently, in the 16th lok sabha, although more Bills were discussed for longer, this Lok Sabha has referred a significantly lower proportion of Bills to Committees for scrutiny. Second lowest working hours by Lok Sabha in 2014 – 2019 . Reason being the time constraints. As it is not possible for each MP to discuss and scrutinise all Bills in the House.
But one must not forget the importance of parliamentary committees which allow for detailed scrutiny of legislation and provide a forum for feedback from various stakeholders. They act as a consensus-building platform across political parties. This is backed by the secretariat that is the backbone of scrutiny process via bureaucrats.
Another roadblock is the disruption in the parliament. Members throwing chairs, hurling abuses and throwing paraphernalia in the session isn’t something new and unbelievable but harshly abuses the image of the sacred seat of parliament. The 16th Lok Sabha lost 16% of its scheduled time to disruptions. This is a lot in terms of innumerably precious hours lost to ego battles and political mud-slinging.
It is eminent to note Babasaheb Ambedkar’s reflections on the productive discussion that was undertaken to draft the Constitution which assumes contemporary significance, especially given that parliamentary adjournments appear to be the norm of the day.
‘’ … The proceedings of this Constituent Assembly would have been very dull if all members had yielded to the rule of party discipline. Party discipline, in all its rigidity, would have converted this Assembly into a gathering of yes men.”
Ambedkar in fact goes on to thank dissenting voices for having enriched the discussion on the assembly floor.
“Fortunately, there were rebels”
The view of founding fathers like Dr. Ambedkar is important so as to understand the nature of our democracy and not just the constitution. The democracy derives power from the people who in turn place their confidence in the legislators.
Therefore, it must be understood that discussions hold centricity in any democratic setup like parliament. And its ignorance must be abhorred as it can cost not just loss to government but to the entire country’s growth.