Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: The 83rd Conference of All India Presiding Officers was held in Rajasthan after eleven years. The All India Presiding Officers’ Conference (AIPOC) is the apex body of the Legislatures in India that completed its hundred years in 2021. The Vice President & Rajya Sabha Chairman addressed the inaugural session of the 83rd All India Presiding Officers’ Conference in Jaipur on 11th January 2023.
OUTCOMES OF THE CONFERENCE
The 83rd session has focused on the following themes of contemporary relevance in its day-long discussions-
- The leadership of India in G-20 as the mother of democracy
- The need to make Parliament and Legislature more Effective, Accountable and Productive
- Integration of State Legislatures with Digital Parliament
- The need to maintain a harmonious relationship between the Legislature and the Judiciary in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
THE ANALYSIS OF THE ABOVE THEMES
- LEADERSHIP OF INDIA IN G-20 AS THE MOTHER OF DEMOCRACY
EMPHASIS IN THE CONFERENCE REGARDING LEADERSHIP OF INDIA IN G-20
- Vice President, In his speech, acknowledged the significance India’s Presidency of G20 holds for the country and also the world. He said, “India is privileged to be heading G20 at a critical time and the session will focus on the Leadership of India in G20 as the mother of democracy.”
- Our age-old ethos, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, inspires India. India has given New Mantra for sustainable development and inclusive prosperity of the world: One Earth, One Family, One Future.
- For India, the G20 Presidency also marks the beginning of “Amritkaal”, the 25-year period beginning from the 75th anniversary of its independence on 15 August 2022, leading up to the centenary of its independence, towards a futuristic, prosperous, inclusive and developed society, distinguished by a human-centric approach at its core.
INDIA’S G20 PRIORITIES
- Green Development, Climate Finance &LiFE: India offers the world LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) -a behaviour-based movement that draws from our nation’s rich, ancient sustainable traditions to nudge consumers, and in-turn markets, to adopt environmentally-conscious practices.
- Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth : India aims to focus on areas that have the potential to bring structural transformation. This includes an ambition to accelerate integration of MSMEs in global trade, bring in the spirit of trade for growth, promote labour rights and secure labour welfare, address global skills gap, and build inclusive agricultural value chains and food systems etc.
- Accelerating progress on SDGs: India acknowledges the detrimental impact of COVID-19, which changed the current decade of action into a decade of recovery. In line with this perspective, India wants to focus on recommitting G20’s efforts to achieving the targets laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure: As G20 Presidency, India can foreground its belief in a human-centric approach to technology, and facilitate greater knowledge-sharing in priority areas like digital public infrastructure, financial inclusion, and tech-enabled development in sectors ranging from agriculture to education
- Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century: India’s G20 priority will be to continue pressing for reformed multilateralism that creates more accountable,inclusive just, equitable and representative multipolar international system that is fit for addressing the challenges in the 21st century.
- Women-led development: India hopes to use the G20 forum to highlight inclusive growth and development, with women empowerment and representation being at the core of India’s G20 deliberations. This includes a focus on bringing women to the fore and in leading positions to boost socio-economic development and achievement of SDGs.
- THE NEED TO MAKE PARLIAMENT AND LEGISLATURE MORE EFFECTIVE, ACCOUNTABLE AND PRODUCTIVE
- Resolutions were passed for the effectiveness of the Parliament:
- A resolution called for the introduction of a code of conduct for MLAs and MPs to check indecorous and unparalleled conduct.
- A code of conduct for members to be introduced in the rules for an effective check against indecorous and unparalleled conduct.
- In a separate resolution, the presiding officers underlined the need for consensus among political parties for not disrupting the House during Question Hour.
- It was also resolved that the rules of procedure and the conduct of the business of legislative bodies should be comprehensively reviewed.
- In another resolution, it was proposed that model uniform rules should be formulated by incorporating the best practices to ensure the productive functioning of the Houses of the legislature.
- Lack of optimisation of the contribution of the elected representatives in Parliament and Legislature for the welfare of the people.
- There has been shrinking time of debate and discussion in the house. Lok Sabha’s productivity or time utilisation dropped to 88% in the last winter session and to just 47% in the 2022 monsoon session from 123% in last year’s budget session. The Lower House witnessed heavy disruptions from the Opposition benches in the previous two sessions. In the 2021 monsoon session, the Lok Sabha could utilise only 21% of its allotted time.
- Disruption of the House is used as a political tool for the members of legislatures
THE WAY FORWARD
- Speaker represents dignity of house, freedom of the house and in a way freedom & liberty of nation. Hence, her position to be free, honored occupied by persons of outstanding ability &impartiality
- Presiding officers hold august offices; in this capacity, they are not political stakeholders. Thus, a good perception should be built among the people of the country about the presiding officers. Members of the parliament and legislature houses should improve their conduct and beliefs.
- Presiding Officers should consider encouraging those lawmakers who participate in debates in the House and also prepare an action plan to act against those members who constantly obstruct the House’s proceedings, so that the House’s dignity is not compromised.
- There should be no disruptions during Question Hour, the period for all lawmakers to seek answers from ministers, and linked parliamentary functioning to India’s goals during the “Amrit Kaal”, or the coming 25 years in the run-up to 2047.
SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENTS
- In Jagjit Singh case – SC noticed issues with speaker’s impartiality and concerns regarding her decisions in certain matters in capacity as a tribunal
- Keisham Meghachandra Singh case (2019) – Parliament to rethink vesting powers in 10th schedule to Speaker as she belongs to Political parties either dejure or defacto. Further serious consideration by Parliament maybe made with respect to the Constitutional Amendment to form permanent Tribunal with retired SC/HC judges or some other outside mechanism for the same purpose.
- INTEGRATION OF STATE LEGISLATURES WITH DIGITAL PARLIAMENT:
e-Parliament or Digital Parliament is defined as the use of ICTs in parliamentary institutions to enhance and strengthen their core functions and operations.
- e-Parliament helps promote e-Democracy and encourages citizens’ participation in the democratic and socio-economic platforms.
- It helps in strengthening the interaction endeavors between the members of parliament and the general citizens.
- Besides this it also facilitates efficient public service delivery, enhances social inclusion, allows transparency in the public service, and facilitates cost savings in government’s bid to involve citizens in its governing processes.
Significance of Integration of State Legislatures with Digital Parliament:
This will ensure a quick and easy exchange of information and innovations in the country’s legislative bodies. This will also increase the efficiency and quality of communication between the legislators and the public.
- It will also facilitate cooperative federalism.
- Easy communication between the centre and State
It also confirmed that all legislatures would work towards joining the National Digital Grid for Legislative Bodies.
- THE NEED TO MAINTAIN A HARMONIOUS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LEGISLATURE AND THE JUDICIARY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE CONSTITUTION.
THE THEME EMPHASISED IN THE CONFERENCE
In the Conference the separation of power was emphasised-
- The resolution recognised the separate powers of the judiciary and legislature.
- It said that each should respect the boundaries provided by the Constitution.
- While reposing confidence in the principle of separation of powers, it exhorted all organs of the state to respect the Constitutional boundaries enshrined in the Constitution of India.
- Constitution has defined the responsibilities and authority of the legislature, judiciary, and executive. “It is necessary that these three organs work in a harmonious manner as per the spirit of the Constitution.”
- The resolution reaffirmed its complete faith in the primacy of the people of India in law-making through the legislative bodies of the nation.
- It was highlighted that there Is parliamentary Supremacy and it is the only institution for law-making. Vice President cautioned against “one upmanship” and “public posturing from judicial platforms”. He expressed his disagreement with the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the Kesavananda Bharati case in which the court said the Parliament had the right to amend the Constitution, but not its basic structure.
- In the conference, it was expressed that in the democratic setup, the legislature is supreme. It has the right to make laws and because of that, it is an expectation that all institutions remain within their limits. It was said that the judiciary does not have the power to make laws, it can scrutinise after the law is legislated.
- The argument that Parliament’s sovereignty and autonomy cannot be permitted to be qualified or compromised as it is quintessential to the survival of democracy is a flawed argument. In India’s, parliamentary setup constitution is supreme rather than parliament.
- All India presiding officer reaffirmed its complete faith in the primacy of the people of India in law-making through the legislative bodies of the nation and while reposing confidence in the principle of separation of powers, exhorts all organs of State to respect the Constitutional boundaries enshrined in the Constitution of India.
- Vice-president was referred to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the National Judicial Appointments Commission law. “No institution can wield power or authority to neutralise the mandate of the people,” Vice -president, while saying a landmark 1973 judgment that set the “basic structure” argument to judge laws through a constitutional prism set a “bad precedent” by effectively curtailing the power of the legislature. It was held that judiciary need “to confine to its limits prescribed in the Constitution and expected to follow the principle of separation and balance of powers conferred by the Constitution among all institutions while exercising its constitutional mandate.”
- In the nutshell, it was said that judicial legislation is antithetical to separation of power. But it has to be recognised that judiciary is the ultimate protector and interpreter of the Constitution and it has been granted power under article 13 for judicial review in which it protect the Constitution from executive and legislative leviathan(legislative and executive overreach).
- Unlike the British Parliament which is a sovereign body (in the absence of a written constitution), the powers and functions of the Indian parliament and State legislatures are subject to limitations laid down in the Constitution. The Constitution does not contain all the laws that govern the country. Parliament and the state legislatures make laws from time to time on various subjects, within their respective jurisdictions. The Constitution provides the general framework for making these laws. Parliament alone is given the power to make changes to this framework under Article 368. Unlike ordinary laws, amendments to constitutional provisions require a special majority vote in Parliament.
- Supreme Court also plays important role in protecting the federal structure of the Constitution In the SR Bommai case it recognised federalism as the basic structure of the Constitution. In a series of judgements, Supreme Court protected the rights of States in India by declaring null and void parliamentary overreach e.g. from colourable legislation.
- Parliament – a majesty which represents people, has been reduced to a handmaiden of the ruling party. Democracy demands power to be vested in institutions and exercised according to procedures. But the populist embodies in his corporeal body the people and the country, the nation and the government. Populists do not tolerate criticism from individuals and forums of deliberation like the Parliament.
THE WAY FORWARD
- India is not only a democratic setup but also a constitutional setup, where the Constitution is supreme, whether it is legislature or judiciary the Constitution binds them. Fusion of power is the basic feature of the Indian Constitution rather than the strict separation of power. It is based on the Philosophy of checks and Balances that decreases the misuse of power.
- Supreme Court also observed it in the Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain, 1975 case that the Separation of power in India was limited and in a broad sense only. A rigid separation of power under the American Constitution does not apply to India.
- In this context it is necessary that the executive, legislature and judiciary should “work in harmony, trust and balance, maintaining each other’s jurisdiction” to protect constitutional morality. In the current scenario, there is a need for more accountable and responsible parliament.
- Thus instead of criticism of the judiciary, there is need to relook and reform the parliamentary system. In this context there is need for government responsible to the people and Constitution. All the constitutional dignitaries should respect the dignity of the post.
- In the debate of the supremacy between the Executive and Judiciary, there is a need to recognise the supremacy of the Constitution in Indian Polity. Discuss
- The speaker plays an important role in maintaining the dignity of the parliament and State Legislative assemblies. Analyse.