As the central legislative body in India, the Parliament has four main roles—it makes laws, it holds the executive to account for its actions, it allocates government finances, and represents the interests and aspirations of citizens. The Parliament is also a constituent body in the sense that it can amend the Constitution.
Functioning of Parliament
Over the years, the Parliament has been meeting for a fewer days. Figure 1 shows that the number of sitting days has declined from 125-140 in the 1950s to about 70 days in the last twenty years. Also, disruptions have further reduced the amount of time available for discussion in Parliament.
An important casualty is Question Hour. If the House is disrupted, it often sits late or through the lunch hour to make up for lost time. However, the time lost in Question Hour is never made up. As a result, only a few questions listed for oral answers are actually answered on the floor, and the rest get a written.
The shortage of time has also affected discussion on bills. Every bill is expected to go through three readings at the stage of introduction, consideration when there is a detailed discussion on each clause, and passing. The Parliament rarely discusses any bill at the first or third reading. Many bills are not discussed at the consideration stage either,
Areas of Reform
There are some structural issues that need to be addressed to improve the effectiveness of Parliament. These include the repeal of the anti defection law, recording all votes on bills and major debates, referring all bills to committees and strengthening the support system for committees.
The Anti-Defection Law
Anti-defection law when it was passed, it aimed at bringing down the political defection but due to ever increasing political dishonesty and corruption this law never developed properly and now a question arose that ‘whether achieving the goals of this law a reality or a myth ? ‘Politicians found loopholes in this law and used it for their own benefit. It is high time that a watchdog should be provided to our Parliament and there is a need for our constitutional pundits to revisit the issue to combat the menace of corruption and defection which has eroded the values of democracy.
Committee System has following disadvantages:
- High Cost in Time and Money
- Indecisive Action
- Compromising Attitude
- Dominance of a Few
- Suppression of Ideas
- Splitting of Responsibilities
- Political Decision
Departmentally Related Standing Committees
Of course, there is no one right answer about the benefits of standing committees. But, I do have a bias against standing committees that have been around forever without revisiting their purpose.
What is the purpose of the committee? Is their charge clear? Is it defined in terms of outcomes that benefit the organization? What has the board delegated to this committee and is the board providing oversight to assure that the assigned work is getting done? If you have a current strategic plan, is the committee assigned strategies and outcomes that support advancement on that plan?
Committees that have a long history frequently, but not always, end up acting independently of the organization’s envisioned future and strategic direction. That committee’s work may or may not support the current strategic plan. There is a comfort zone for individuals who have been on a committee and in a position to define their own work and see it as somewhat independent of the rest of the organization.
If this is true of the standing committees of your organization, it might be worth an investment of the board’s time to review all committee charges (purpose statements, commissions, whatever you want to call it) and determine how those committees can best support the strategic plan and strategic initiatives. It may mean rewriting or refining the current committee purpose statement in terms of outcomes. In my experience, when the delegation of work to a committee changes from what the committee has comfortably done over the past many years, the folks on the committee will grumble and then, when held responsible for the outcomes, will either jump in and contribute or leave.
If you decide on investing in revisiting the objective statements of all committees, it may also help the board identify the right person to be the next chair – someone who is on board with outcomes and board oversight.
Committee on Subordinate Legislation
● No parliamentary deliberation – Parliament does not get a chance to debate rules, regulations, etc. made by the executive. These are made in the ante-chamber of the bureaucrat and the benefits of parliamentary deliberations are lost.
● No prior publicity- Whereas drafts of bills are often published for public comment and criticism, prior publicity is not always possible in case of rules and regulations and the benefits of public discussion are criticism is lost.
● Not enough publicity- Everyone is supposed to know the law because statutes are, generally speaking, easily accessible. This is not so in the case of delegated legislation, where the mass of rules, regulations, bye-laws, orders, etc. often lie buried in the files of bureaucrats. Antecedent publicity, that is, publicity before enactment is often missing in delegated legislation.
● Lesser research- Since statutes are normally given greater publicity than rules and regulations, the former can reach out to a greater number of citizens.\
● Possibility of overreach and or overlapping – as delegated legislation can often be confusing, complex and difficult to understand. Moreover, it can be different (and at times, contradictory) in different states, thus leading to confusion and lack of uniformity.
● Possibility of poor drafting – Delegated legislation may not be well considered or drafted by legislative experts and may thus suffer from infirmities due to poor drafting.
● Possibility of confusion- Experiences show that delegated legislation can often be confusing, complex and difficult to understand. Moreover, it can be different (and at times, contradictory) in different states, thus leading to confusion and lack of uniformity.
Parliament plays a central role in the Indian system of representative governance, affecting all aspects of lives of citizens. It has done a remarkable job for nearly seventy years, helping manage internal tensions of perhaps the most diverse set of people in any country. Many social reforms and economic progress have been led by Parliament. However, there are ways in which its effectiveness can be improved. These include revocation of the anti-defection law, making recorded voting mandatory and strengthening the committee system