March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

LEGISLATIVE DECLINE: ON GOVERNMENT’S ACTIONS AND A DISREGARD FOR DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY

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THE CONTEXT: The security breach in Parliament featuring a theatrical attempt by individuals to highlight an issue of public importance and the Union government’s response to it have been deeply problematic.

MORE ON THE NEWS:

  • The government has hindered any debate over this issue in Parliament which lead to an unprecedented high number of suspensions of Opposition legislators which disregard deliberative democracy.
  • Over 90 opposition MPs suspended so far for causing ruckus and for disrupting parliamentary proceedings.
  • Unlike in the two Lok Sabhas (2004-14), when even ruling party legislators, including rebels, were suspended for unruliness, this time only opposition members have been subject to suspension and also this is for far less severe offences since 2014.

ISSUES:

  • Denial of legislative debate: Denial of legislative debate further affects the democratic processes in the country. Legislative business and parliamentary work have been often given short time while one-upmanship through the use of suspensions, have dominated proceedings.
  • Underutilising parliamentary committee: Over the course of recent parliamentary sessions, there have been multiple attempts at oppressing the opposition. There have been attempts at getting Bills passed without adequate discussion and under-utilising standing and parliamentary committees.
  • Targeting dissenters: One of the issue arising is misuse of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to indiscriminately target dissenters, such as the protesters who threw canisters and raised slogans in Parliament. It has also fallen into the recent pattern of a deliberate equation of dissent with terror.
  • International image: Such actions in parliament in India have compelled global democracy reports by research institutions such as V-Dem Institute to characterise India’s democracy as an “electoral autocracy”. Also, this has led the U.S.-based Freedom House, that measures civil and political liberties, to declare India as “partially free”.

THE WAY FORWARD

  • Code of conduct of MPs and MLAs: There must be strict adherence to the code of conduct for MPs and MLAs so that there is least disruption of proceedings in parliament.
  • Strong legislative oversight: A strong legislative oversight system ensures accountable government and the realization of the welfare state’s promise. For an effective parliamentary democracy, strict parliamentary supervision is a must.
  • Effective discussion: The hallmark of a functioning democracy is deliberation, where elected legislators debate and discuss issues of public importance. A thorough deliberation can be done by efficient utilisation of parliamentary and standing committees to delve into the proposed legislation.
  • Regulating suspension of parliamentarians: Parliament can amend its rules to give MPs more power when confronting the government and enable its committees to play a larger role in the legislative process. The Speaker’s adjudicating power over anti-defection legislation could be handed to the other agencies like Election Commission of India for impartial decision of suspensions.

THE CONCLUSION:

Parliament is regarded as the highest institutions in the country in which representative democracy is implemented. However, the recent actions by the government contribute to the backsliding of democracy in India, making it a matter of serious concern. There is a need for further strengthening the Parliament to prevent disruption of its proceedings and to deepen its role as the forum for deliberation on critical national issues.

PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS

Q.1 Explain the structure of the Parliamentary Committee system. How far have the financial committees helped in the institutionalisation of the Indian Parliament? (2023)

Q.2 Discuss the role of Presiding Officers of state legislatures in maintaining order and impartiality in conducting legislative work and in facilitating best democratic practices. (2023)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION

Q.1 The functioning of Parliament has deteriorated over time, which is not a good sign for a healthy democracy. Comment.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/legislative-decline-the-hindu-editorial-on-governments-actions-and-a-disregard-for-deliberative-democracy/article67651320.ece

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