Strengthening Parliamentary System

By Nitin Singhal|Updated : March 10th, 2021

Parliament being the chamber of deliberation, is also the supreme institution of lawmaking. One can't deny the fact that the supreme institution of accountability in the country is the Parliament itself. So as to ensure the development of a country, Parliament plays a major role. 

As there are six parameters given by the World Bank on the basis of which, the performance of the Parliament of a specific country is evaluated. The parameters include- Financial accountability, Rule Compliance, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Relevance and Sustainability. But in all the above-mentioned parameters, the performance of the Indian Parliament is less than an average which henceforth justifies the fact that it is the need of an hour to strengthen the Parliamentary institutions for the effective and the smooth functioning of the Parliament. 

Following factors are responsible for the inefficient working of Parliament. These are-

  •  Lack of women representatives: Women representatives in the Parliament are very low in numbers which results in the lack of effective debates and discussions regarding the problems which women are facing along with the heinous crimes against them with that much intensity. Thus, The Women's Reservation Bill was conceived in 1996 by Geeta Mukherjee Committee for 33% reservation of women in Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies. The Rajya Sabha gave its assent in 2010, but Lok Sabha never voted on the Bill. In the recently held 17th Lok Sabha election, women representative constituted 14% of the total seats which is a record high in the world's largest democracy, but still well below the global average of nearly one in four seats.
  • Non- productive sessions: One of the reason is that the Parliamentarians themselves do not comply with the rules of procedures made by themselves. Thus, our former Vice President Hamid Ansari has remarked Parliament as 'chamber of anarchy'. Another factor is the lack of efficient and productive debates and discussions over there. M.P.'s are always provided with week advance notice regarding the topic of debate/discussion but, in spite of that, there are mere disruptions in the House during the time of debates. 
  • Destructive Opposition: Opposition plays a major role in analysing the loopholes of governmental processes as it is central to parliamentary democracy, but every time, they deviate from the significant issues and keep playing the blame game with the other parties.s
  • Inefficient functioning of Committee systems: Parliamentary Committees have a tenure of one year. Also, they don't have any constraints to meet throughout the year. Thus, members of them are replaced after every one year, and the quality of research is not enhancing as the members are not given the time of more than one year for their research. It can be analysed by the fact of how far there committees reports are contributing to debates in the Parliament. 
  • Lack of blue-chip researchers: Of panels of experts on the specific subject areas is one of the major issues. Thus, the prominent research in some areas is not feasible as the ministers themselves can't analyse the difficult situation due to lack of knowledge. 

 STEPS TAKEN TO STRENGTHEN PARLIAMENTARY INSTITUTIONS

To improve the quality of debates and discussions, steps have been taken by the Parliament including organising training programmes for Members of Parliament along with visits in other parliamentary and commonwealth countries so as the interaction with the parliamentarians of various countries would enhance the skills and add value to their capabilities. Moreover, ten recommendations regarding the smooth functioning of Parliament have adopted in the 18th All India Whips conference on 8th January 2018 including reforms of Zero Hour for an immediate reply and Action taken the report from concerned Ministry, Legislative work for more working days in the Parliament etc. 

SUGGESTIONS

  • Building a better image of Parliament: Parliament is the communication link between the people and the government. Bad public relations job has resulted in a poor image of Parliament and of its members. People talk of happenings in Parliament and of the M.P.s as things quite remote and different from themselves. It is requisite to establish a new rapport between the people and the Parliament. The people should be aware of what their representatives are doing for them. Better press and public relations job and image-building for Parliament are legitimate and necessary, and there should be no hesitation to use the latest tools and techniques for the purpose. The mass media - the radio, television, newspapers, films etc. should all be suitably harnessed to the service of Parliament. These, particularly the print and electronic media, can play a vital role in building a healthy image of Parliament. The recent innovations of televising the Question Hour and other important debates would go a long way to bring Parliament to the door-steps of the people.
  • Panchayats and Parliament: The role of M.P. must undergo change as a result of Panchayati Raj. Ideally, MPs are Members for the whole of India and should deal basically with the national issues leaving the local issues to the care of Panchayats and Nagar Palikas. Schemes like the ones placing two crores of rupees each year at the discretion of each M.P. to be spent on local projects are bound to create role conflicts and tensions.
  • Improving the quality of Members of Parliament: Quality of Members is the most crucial variable in the working of any Parliament in as much as a Parliament would be what its members make of it. Members of important parliamentary committees require to lay down a strict code of conduct for themselves, never to ask the senior Govt officers appearing before the Committee for personal favours, avoiding Committee tours unless really required and never accept any gifts, dinners, free transport, five-star hospitality and the like while on tours.
  • Planning Legislation and improving its Quality:  Indian Legislation has often been criticised for hasty drafting and for its being rushed through the Parliament in an ad hoc and haphazard manner. There is a need for a dynamic (not mechanical) approach to legislative engineering and systematic programming of laws which may be proposed for enactment over a period of time. This can be done by:
    •  streamlining the functions of the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee of the Cabinet;
    •  making greater use of the Law Commission;
    •  setting up a new Legislation Committee of Parliament to oversee and coordinate legislative planning; and
    •  referring all Bills to the newly set-up Departmental Standing Committees for consideration and scrutiny, consulting concerned interest groups and finalisation of the second reading stage in the relaxed atmosphere of Committees aided by experts thereby reducing the burden of the House without impinging on any of its rights and improving the quality of drafting and content of Legislation.
  • Codifying Parliamentary Privileges: In a democratic society, any privileges for a section or class of the people are anachronistic, any undefined privileges like the privileges of Parliament are even more so. For this reason, It becomes the utmost importance that the weapon of parliamentary privileges is used with great circumspection. These privileges must not be allowed to be used in such a manner as to nullify themselves and become rights against the people. Time is now ripe for removing the currently existing uncertainty and anxiety of the people and the press through early codification. A Joint Parliamentary Committee may be set up to lay down the privileges in precise terms and to recommend appropriate piecemeal or comprehensive Legislation.

To ensure effective functioning, minimum sitting along with the longer parliamentary tenure is the need of an hour. As the debates are the embodiment of the democratic process, so as to serve the purpose, it should be required to enhance the quality of debate. Moreover, to deal with the disruptions, more powers should be provided to the presiding officers. A holistic approach should be adopted for Legislation, along with the best researchers. Whips should be relaxed in ordinary Legislation and strengthening the backbone of Parliament, i.e. The parliamentary Secretariat along with Members of Parliament is to be done.

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Nitin SinghalNitin SinghalMember since Jul 2020
Nitin Singhal is a mentor and Content Developer with an expertise in UPSC and State PSC exams. He tries to make students’ life easy by guiding them the right path and knowledge to cater to their dream govt. job. I have a notion of 'education for all. He has experience of more than 3 years in this field.
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