Q) The need of the hour is that all bills in the Parliament should go through pre-legislative scrutiny to iron out issues & build broad consensus before being brought to Parliament. Discuss.
Why this Question?
Important part of GS Paper-II.
Key demand of the Question
Examine the need for detailed scrutiny of various Bills in the Parliament.
Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.
Start with an introduction about the legislative process in India.
In the first part, categorically discuss the problems that have occurred due to hasty legislations in India and the role of Parliamentary scrutiny in this regard.
In the next part, suggest steps that need to be taken.
Conclude with a summary.
The recent Monsoon Session of Parliament has again witnessed the passing of laws within minutes without subjecting to the scrutiny of the house. It has become a big concern because its number has been increasing. The repetition of such legislative functioning is appalling as both government and the Parliament continue making the same mistake.
Current Legislative Process in trend:
In our parliamentary system, a majority of laws originate from the government.
- Each ministry decides the path its legislative proposals will take from ideation to enactment:
- Very few bills undergo a pre-legislative scrutiny process.
- For instance, the Shipping Ministry requested public feedback on two bills that were piloted during this session.
- However, most ministries expedite their bills by not putting them through a similar pre-legislative process.
- They simply bypass the normal legislative process, without undergoing any discussion & deliberation, they put the bill for voting & eventually get their bill passed.
- The most used & concerned path that government uses to fast track legislation is the Ordinance route.
Ordinance route and its misuse:
- The Constitution empowers the government to make a law when Parliament is not in session & the situation requires immediate action.
- However, over the years the successive governments have exploited the spirit of this constitutional provision.
- In the recent past, government has been promulgating ordinances few days before a parliamentary session, cut a session short to issue one & pushed a law that is not urgent through the ordinance route.
- However sometimes executive fails to follow through on legislative urgency.
- Some ordinances miss the deadline for getting parliamentary approval & the government had to re-promulgate the ordinance after the session.
- Bringing in law through the ordinance route also bypasses parliamentary scrutiny.
- However, it does not always bring desired outcomes.
Importance of Parliamentary committees
- Parliamentary Committees are smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties and they function throughout the year.
- They are assigned the task of looking into the demands for grants of the ministries/departments concerned, to examine Bills pertaining to them, to consider their annual reports, and to look into their long-term plans and report to Parliament.
- Parliamentary committees are not bound by the populistic demands that generally act as hindrance in working of parliament.
- As committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, the parliamentary committee work on the ethos of debate and discussions.
- Moreover, they work away from the public glare, remain informal compared to the codes that govern parliamentary proceedings, and are great training schools for new and young members of the House.
- Revitalising Parliamentary Committee System: Parliament should revitalise its committees to enable wider public participation. It should insist that every Bill is deliberated upon in a committee, much like what the British Parliament does.
- Acting With Responsibility & Amending Rules: Apart from the Speaker or the Chairman acting with probity, there is need to amend rules of procedure in both Lok Sabha and Rajya sabha, so that all major Bills should be referred to DRSCs.
- Setting Up New Committees: Given the increasing complexity in matters of economy and technological advancement, there is a need for setting up new parliamentary committees. For example:
- Standing Committee on Federal issues to provide analysis of all the matters that overlapping in the Union List, Concurrent List and State List.
- Standing Constitution Committee to scrutinise Constitutional Amendment Bills before they are introduced in Parliament.
The primary role of Parliament is deliberation, discussion and reconsideration, the hallmarks of any democratic institution. However, Parliament deliberates on matters that are complex and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters better. Thus, Parliamentary Committees help with this by providing a forum where members can engage with domain experts and government officials during the course of their study. There is a need to strengthen the parliamentary committees rather than bypassing them for the betterment of the parliamentary democracy.