Context: The monsoon session of parliament began recently. It will conclude on August 31.
- This is the first full session of parliament since the Covid-19 hit the country last year.
- Both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will function from 11am to 6pm from Monday and there are 19 sittings scheduled for this session.
- This is the first session since the reshuffle of the Union Council of ministers. On day one, the PM will introduce newly inducted ministers to both Houses.
Sessions of Parliament:
- The longest - Budget Session - starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May.
- The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
- The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
- The parliamentary year ends with a three week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.
Constitutional provisions wrt the summoning of Parliament:
- Article 85 in The Constitution Of India: Sessions of Parliament, prorogation and dissolution
- (1) The President shall form time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session
- (2) The President may from time to time
- (a) prorogue the Houses or either House;
- (b) dissolve the House of the People
- Like many other articles, it is based on a provision of The Government of India Act, 1935.
- Dr B R Ambedkar stated that the purpose of this provision was to summon the legislature only to collect revenue and once-a-year meeting was designed to avoid scrutiny of the government by the legislature.
The power to convene a session of Parliament:
- Rests with the government: The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
- The decision of the Committee is formalised: By the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
- India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar:
- By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
- A general scheme of sittings was recommended in 1955 by the General Purpose Committee of Lok Sabha.
- It was accepted by the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but was not implemented.
Functioning of the Parliament over the years:
- To accommodate political and legislative exigencies: Governments have shuffled around the dates of sessions.
- Sessions have been cut short or delayed to allow the government to issue Ordinances. For example, in 2016, the Budget Session was broken up into two separate sessions to enable the issuance of an Ordinance.
- Sessions have been stretched (in 2008), the two-day Monsoon Session was extended until December, so that a no-confidence motion can be moved against the UPA-I government over the India-US nuclear deal.
- Fewer House sittings: Over the years, there has been a decline in the sittings days of Parliament.
- During the first two decades of Parliament, Lok Sabha met for an average of a little more than 120 days a year.
- This has come down to approximately 70 days in the last decade.
- One institutional reason given for this is the reduction in the workload of Parliament by its Standing Committees, which have anchored debates outside the House (since 1990s).
Way ahead (Recommendations):
- Parliament should meet for at least 120 days in a year: By the congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal in his private member Bills.
- Parliament should meet for four sessions in a year: Sitting Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral, in his 2017 private member Bill.
- Legislative Impact Assessment: A detailed framework for pre and post Legislative Impact Assessment was needed.
- Parliamentary committee reforms: Measures for the effective functioning of Department Related Standing Committees like longer tenure, instead of the present one year, for promoting specialization are needed.
- Strengthen the role of the opposition: In order to strengthen the role of the opposition, the institution of shadow cabinet can be formed in India.
- Shadow Cabinet - A unique institution of the British cabinet system, is formed by the opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial office.