So, who brought Parliament down?

Both Opposition and ruling party are responsible for the House's slide into irrelevance.

 |  4-minute read |   11-04-2018
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Walk-outs, disruptions, satires, witty retorts are some of the practices that make parliamentary proceedings lively and help create some fundamental debates. This is possible only when Parliament meets on the prescribed dates, there are sufficient meetings and, most importantly, the House runs smoothly.

The Constitution provides that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament. Therefore, the president convenes our Parliament three times a year. But compared to some of the world's major parliaments, the average annual meetings of the Indian Parliament and the time spent in the proceedings are very short.

England’s House of Commons works on an average for 140 days, 1,670 hours in a year, in the US 136 days, 2,000 hours, in Australia 64 days, 626 hours, while Indian Parliament functions for an abysmally shorter duration - 64 days, 337 hours.

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The 15th Lok Sabha had total of 357 sittings. The House sat only for 1,344 hours out of which 891 hours were wasted due to obstructions and adjournment. This was the case when scams like 2G Spectrum, Adarsh Society, Commonwealth Games, allotment of coal mines came before Parliament. On the issue of a separate Telangana state, parliamentary proceedings were adjourned several times. The first few sessions of the 16th Lok Sabha were smooth, ran uninterrupted, but the last sitting saw repeated disruptions and adjournments.

The members adopted various ways of obstruction, some members coming to the well of the House, flashing placards. According to the rules of the House, when the members come into the well of the House, the presiding officer should ideally adjourn the proceedings. In the last session of the House, while on the one hand the no-confidence motion against the cabinet was dismissed by the Speaker saying that the House was not order, on the other hand, many bills, including the Union Budget, were passed amid noisy protests even without discussion and debate.

Evaluation and estimates are made as to how much do the frequent Parliamentary disruptions cost the country. The repeated interruptions and adjournments not only diminishes the capacity of Parliament to function, but also blurs the concept of Parliamentary democracy, and evaluating the loss in monetary terms would be a farce.

Parliament should discuss the burning issues and problems facing the country, it should discuss the hopes and expectations of the people so that it can be resolved as quickly as possible, providing accountable governance to the people of the country. The people elect their representatives with the expectations that there would be meaningful debates in Parliament, that the MPs would discharge their duties so that good laws are made.

But today the situation is that the elected representatives (except for some exceptions) are acting more like their parties' men and less like public representatives. It appears as if the honourable members have lost their personal wisdom. They listen only to the commands of their party. Their entire energy and focus is on winning the next election. Many times, senior MPs have expressed their anger over the behaviour of their fellow parliamentarians.

At one point, veteran leader LK Advani was so upset with the state of affairs in Parliament that he had said in the Lok Sabha that his inner voice says he wanted to resign. There is a saying that in the democracy, the minorities speak what is in their mind, but the majority does what is in their mind. Perhaps for this reason parliamentary democracy is called the dictatorship of majority. But now the situation has changed. Now minority parties create barriers and the majority party do not discuss or debate in Parliament. Every MP and a political party has the constitutional right to express their views in Parliament freely.

If they are dissatisfied and disagree, then they can express the same, or they can protest and walk out from the House. But instead, with frequent disruptions in the House, the presiding officers are compelled to stop the proceedings of the House and in the process derailing its functioning.

Will frequent adjournment of the House become a method to protest? Will such protests and demonstrations become a substitute to debates in Parliament in future? Has the time come to consider the cancellation of the membership of Parliamentarians who interfere in the functioning of the House?

It is also important to understand that the importance of MPs is not limited only to the formation of the government or to save the government. The party in power carries a special responsibility on their shoulder that even outside Parliament they keep the path of dialogue open with the Opposition, initiate dialogues, build trust and co-ordination, and following the principles of "cooperative federalism" take along the regional parties and the Opposition.

There should be debate and constructive discussion in Parliament, the proceedings take place according to the well-established rules of the House, and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha just like England’s Speaker of the House of Commons, win the trust of all the sections of the House.

It is only then India can truly be called world’s largest democracy.

Also read: How Modi government has trampled over Parliament

 

 

Writer

Praveen Shekhar Praveen Shekhar

The writer is Associate Producer, TVTN.

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