By: Priyanka Saurabh
When Parliament runs, it is about the society, it is about the nation. Whose loss is there when Parliament does not function due to protests or deadlocks? The country pays a big price for not functioning the House, its citizens pay. Today the issue is Parliament proceedings and economic loss. The issue is of dignity and utility of the House. This time the two-week monsoon session of Parliament had to be adjourned due to frequent disruptions. The country’s expenditure is going in vain, the dignity of the Parliament is being hurt due to the poor quality of discussion, and we cannot measure the cost of statutory loss along with economic loss. How will the country run if laws are not made? Will the country ever be able to make up for this lost time?
The people of the country do not send MPs by electing them so that they can go to Delhi and take a rest and let the country’s money go away. People choose MPs because they become their voice, and bring solutions to their problems. What will happen to the people and their problems if the Parliament remains stalled like this? Parliament has been created to talk about the things necessary for society and give them a real shape. If this continues, what will happen to the unemployment, health, education, and other common issues of the country? Who will find the solution? After all, why Question Hour and Zero Hour have been pushed into the trough? If the country does not get the bills of need on time, then what will happen to the society, the country, of the people? What will happen if society does not get what it needs today? If we do not keep up with the times, the country is bound to lag. It is the misfortune of the country that the government along with the opposition seems to be involved in it.
Due to adjournments, due to frequent disruptions in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, so far very little work has been done during this session. Around two dozen MPs from various opposition parties were also suspended for indecent behaviour and misconduct. This, of course, became a new flashpoint between the government and the opposition, leading to further uproar and disruption. What are the implications for the country in terms of unproductive Parliament sessions, time, and money? And more importantly, when disruptions to the functioning of Parliament have become normal, how worrisome is it for the world’s largest democracy?
Today the question is about the democracy of the country of the dignity of Parliament. Why is it that the highest priority is given by the government to the elections of the President of India and the Vice President of India by taking out the discussion on the important issues of the country? Opposition parties are missing the opportunity to get clarity and accountability from the government on various issues like GST and inflation. There are disruptions in both houses due to a lack of cooperation and coordination between different parties and this is a waste of money and time. Concerns over the quality of bills passed without adequate discussion in Parliament are also holding the country back. The request of opposition parties for debate on price hike and Lok Sabha Speaker not allowing debate on new GST rates on packaged food, irresponsible attitude of the government and vindictive posture of treasury benches, opposition parties not adhering to parliamentary norms disciplining the entire Parliament.
Due to frequent disruptions, forcing an adjournment, there has been little business during the session to date. In 2012, Rs 2.5 lakh was spent every minute to run the Parliament during the session. This number will now be much higher. The Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha last an average of 80 days a year and work for about six hours each day. The reduction in Question Hour and Zero Hour undermines the principle of parliamentary oversight of the executive. These disruptions result in the passing of bills without qualitative debate and deliberation. If these disruptions continue, it may result in interference of the judiciary which is against the principle of separation of powers.
It has the prerogative to initiate contempt proceedings against the members who obstruct the Parliament. A solution has to be found from within the system. Parliament makes its own rules and regulations; it is up to the members to follow those rules and regulations for the effective functioning of the legislative bodies. For how long will this happen? Parliament has to come up with internal checks and balances both at the individual level and at the party level. Proportionate penalties may be imposed for repeated interruptions. A Parliament Disruption Index can be created on which automatic suspension of disruptions can be applied. Also, the working days of Parliament should be increased. Frequent disruption of parliamentary proceedings is becoming a new norm which adds to the trust deficit between the parties. This tendency is bad for a healthy democracy and a dent in the fairness of the parliamentary system.
Continuous uproar in the Parliament results in prolonged adjournments in both the Houses which ultimately affect the formulation of public policy in the House. India is one of the largest democracies in the world, where everyone has their voice with their opinion on policy, but these prolonged disruptions are reducing the efficiency of Parliament. What result do we get at the end of the day, and how much do we benefit from the discussion? The answers we get are nothing but effective results, recently the Supreme Court in its own words said that the law has not been framed by the legislature up to the right target and some loopholes persist. The government needs to make appropriate laws according to the need of the people. This kind of uproar is not new; it has become a new normal in our democracy. Now is the time to take our parliamentary process in the right direction with better efficiency.
Another thing we can do is suspend delegates for future elections with a publicly available track record of the person and how the person in action is doing. India is a participatory democracy, here everyone can put their opinion before the government, and here the opposition and the ruling party needs proper coordination to make laws. There is a need for proper investigation and audit of what an MP is doing and based on that some rules need to be made, ruling parties never made such rules because they know that one day it will be difficult for them when they become the opposition party. According to me, the Supreme Court needs to intervene and the President should also be given some coercive powers to take final action against the disturbances in that matter. (The author is a Research Scholar in Political Science, Poet, freelance journalist, and columnist)