Q) Disorder, disruption and delay in legislation have recently come to replace debates, discussions and decisions, which are hallmarks of democracy, thus declining the standards of Indian Parliament as a temple of democracy. Critically examine
Why this Question?
Important part of GS Paper-II.
Key demand of the Question
Discuss the importance of healthy parliamentary debates and discussions and their role in effective law making and how they have declined.
Critically examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we have to look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.
Elaborate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms wherever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.
Start with a context of the question.
In the first part, discuss the significance of parliamentary debates and discussions.
In the next part, explain how these have deteriorated in recent times. Give examples.
Conclude with a way forward.
As an institution, Parliament is central to the very idea of democracy and was assigned a pivotal role in our Constitution by the founding fathers of the republic. Parliament is responsible for legislation—laws of the land—by which people govern themselves. It must ensure accountability of governments—on policies or actions—to the people. It should engage in discourse and debate on issues that concern the nation and the citizens.
Significance of parliamentary debates
- These debates provide a forum for MPs to express their opinions and concerns, and contribute towards making policy.
- It allows parliamentarians to voice the interest of the people of their constituencies.
- Scrutinising, overseeing and holding government accountable: one of parliament’s main roles is to examine, check and challenge the work of government through questioning Ministers and debating over it.
- It leads to better policy formulation that caters to the specific needs of the citizens.
- It helps in accommodating diverse views of different MPs.
- Assist in informed decision making.
Indian Parliament as the temple of democracy has declined in the recent years
There are three designated roles for Parliament in a democracy. It is responsible for legislation—laws of the land—by which people govern themselves. It must ensure accountability of governments—on policies or actions—to the people. It should engage in discourse and debate on issues that concern the nation and the citizens.
- There are mainly two reasons for this decline. Parliament does not meet or work long enough. And there are institutional constraints on its performance while working.
- Incomes and assets apart, the criminalization of politics is a reality. ADR, Association for Democratic Reforms, reports that 34% of the MPs in the 2014 Lok Sabha faced criminal charges, as compared with 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004.
- There are institutional constraints on the performance of MPs as well. 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. 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
- In India, the anti-defection law stipulates that a three-line whip can be violated only if more than one-third of a party’s MPs do so. This is the unintended consequence of a law that might have mitigated one problem but created another, which is emasculating our Parliament as an institution.
- The excruciatingly slow process of legislating big policy decisions, with months and even years of acrimonious stalemate in parliament, interspersed by the all too rare breakthrough. This has led to two consequences. First, it leaves the government of the day scrambling to eke out executive decisions that will not require parliament’s sanction. And More importantly, it creates a vacuum in governance that has increasingly been filled by an activist judiciary.
- Even the Supreme Court has felt compelled to get involved in such micromanagement as stipulating measures for garbage disposal and cleanliness in housing colonies; settling parking rates and restricting the use of loudspeakers and firecrackers during festivals.
- This forfeiture of what is rightfully the role of the legislature disturbs the balance of powers between it and the other pillars of the constitution. It is thus no surprise that many have begun to wonder aloud about the relevance of parliament.
The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution adopted the Parliamentary system of government by considering the fact that it will be more suitable to India’s pluralism and heterogeneity. In order to restore the values of Parliamentary democracy it is essential as well as urgent to concentrate on the following measures:
- Devoting most of the time for quality debates and discussions,
- falling attendance in the Parliament should be controlled,
- Members should shun their party affiliation while dealing with issues affecting the common man and the nation,
- Strict enforcement of Code of Conduct for people’s representatives.
In order to keep the values of our parliamentary democracy we should elect only morally trained representatives; and the members of the Parliament and State Assemblies should set themselves as an example for the public, especially the youth.