Parliament passes too many bills without debate: Study

May 3rd, 2009 - 12:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Debate is at the heart of any democracy, but a new study says last year parliament passed several bills without any debate at all - and many of them hurriedly. So will the new Lok Sabha to be convened next month after the elections be any different?
PRS Legislative Research, an organisation that aims to strengthen legislative debate, says on its last day the lower house passed eight bills in a span of 17 minutes.

“Parliament passed 32 bills (excluding finance and appropriation bills) during the year (2008). Several bills were passed without any debate - indeed on the last day, the Lok Sabha passed eight bills in the span of 17 minutes,” says the study.

“In all, 28 percent of the bills were passed with less than 20 minutes of discussion, and a further 19 percent with less than one hour of debate,” it says.

Opposition MPs say the government acted in a hurried manner.

“Passing bills without any discussion is not a good trend. In most cases, the government is responsible for hurriedly passing the bills,” said C.K. Chandrappan, deputy leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the Lok Sabha.

Chandrappan pointed out why it was so important to debate the bills: “MPs and the government should ensure that the rights of people are reflected on the floor of the house. If they fail to do so, it is a blow to the people. The house has nothing to lose.”

But Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi says one of the main functions of parliament is to pass legislation. He said most of the time, the functioning of parliament was disrupted over various issues and the government did not have time to wait.

“Full cooperation from the opposition is needed to pass the bills. But most of the time the functioning of parliament is disrupted on petty issues. The government has to function. It has to get the bills passed on time,” Ravi told IANS.

The year 2008 saw parliament meet only for 46 days, which was lower than in any previous year. It also met for just two sessions, as the monsoon session was continued until the Christmas break.

Both the opposition and the government said some of the bills were passed after members of both sides reached a consensus in the Business Advisory Committee.

“In fact, detailed discussions on the bills were held in the standing committees,” Ravi said. A standing committee is a group of MPs from both houses of parliament which makes suggestions on a particular bill.

Political scientists say MPs also lack interest and expertise on the issues dealt with in the bills.

“Lack of time, lack of interest and lack of expertise (among members) are the reasons for hurriedly passing the bills,” said Rumki Basu, head of the political science department, Jamia Millia Islamia university.

“Many MPs do not take the bills seriously. Many of them do not understand the technical things in the bills. They refer the bills to standing committees and take them lightly,” she said.

“If they don’t show interest (in detailed discussions), then what can be done?”

PRS says there were systemic problems in the functioning of parliament. “Parliament does not provide MPs with any individual or common research staff, or even office space,” says PRS.

One of the common concerns across several bills is the lack of adequate information on the financial implications of provisions, the study says.

So will the new Lok Sabha address some of these issues more proactively?

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