Q. Individual parliamentarian’s role as the national law maker is on decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcomes.

Democracy is based on the principle of representation. The role of an elected representative is to represent the needs and grievances of the people of their constituency in particular and nation in general.

However, in the recent times, this role has been affected and is consistently declining for various reasons

  • Anti-defection Law which puts restrictions on the right of free speech of the legislators wherein they are expected to mandatorily follow party directions.
  • Strengthening the office of Whip led to decline in role of individual representatives.
  • Overall decline in quality of representatives due to Criminalization of politics and increase in money power.
  • Decline in parliamentary sitting which has reduced from 120 days/year to 65-70 days/year
  • Unhindered rise in competitive electoral politics also led to politicization of every issue thereby affecting objective deliberations

Decline in their quality of functioning has certainly impacted the outcome of parliamentary democracy in various ways:

  • Passage of bills and budgets without due diligence and debate. For example, the time spent on discussing the Budget has reduced from an average of 123 hours in the 1950s to 39 hours in the last decade.
  • Lack of accountability of the government. In the 16th Lok Sabha, question hour has functioned in Lok Sabha for 77% of the scheduled time, while in Rajya Sabha it has functioned for 47%. Time lost indicates a lost opportunity to hold the government accountable for its actions
  • Number and quality of private member’s bill has also drastically declined
  • It has resulted in High cost to public exchequer in the form of wasting of taxpayer money
  • It has led to delays in policy making, leading to rise of unconstitutional bodies to fill the legislative gap There is declining faith in Democratic process
  • It has resulted in increased Judicial Intervention
  • The tendency of increased recourse to guillotine motion to pass the bills without discussing important provisions Passage of bills without referring to parliamentary standing committees

Measures to improve the quality of role played by elected representatives

  • Parliament (Enhancement of Productivity) Bill, 2017 should be taken up which seeks to fix the minimum number of days at 100 days for Rajya Sabha. This was recommended by national commission for review of working of constitution too.
  • Rules can be altered to provide greater role for opposition in deciding agenda of the house
  • Stricter Rules of Procedure and conduct of business to deal with the unruly behaviour.
  • Reviewing the Anti-Defection Law and confining it to major issues like no confidence motion and budget as recommended by Dinesh Goswami committee.
  • Involvement of opposition in deciding the agenda of the house and greater time for them in discussions on the floor of the house.
  • Electoral reforms to reduce entry if people with criminal background into politics

Hence, there is a need to implement the above constructive suggestions, to increase the role of Parliamentarians and make the Government more accountable

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