March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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LAW OF NUMBERS: ON THE WINTER SESSION AND A LOW IN INDIA’S PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

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THE CONTEXT: The winter session of Parliament marked a new low in India’s parliamentary democracy as the ruling government refused to engage with the Opposition. It evaded executive accountability and passed a number of Bills with far-reaching consequences while a majority of the Opposition members remained suspended.

RULES OF SUSPENSION OF MPs

SUSPENSION RULES IN THE LOK SABHA:

  • Rule 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business: The speaker may direct any Member to withdraw immediately from the House and to remain absent during the rest of the day’s sitting if his/her conduct is grossly disordered.
  • Rule 374 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business: The Speaker may name a member if it thinks necessary, who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstruct the business.
  • Once the member is named, the government introduces a motion for their suspension. If the motion passes, the member gets suspended.
  • The member stands automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.

SUSPENSION RULES IN THE RAJYA SABHA:

  • Rule 255 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business: Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered to direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disordered to withdraw immediately from the House.
  • The Chairman identifies any member causing undue disruptions. Following this, a motion is presented to the House for their suspension. If the House approves the motion, the member is suspended.

ISSUES:

  • Suspension of members: A total of 146 Members of Parliament (MP) from the Opposition bloc were suspended as they clamoured for a statement. This suspension is termed by the Opposition MP as “predetermined and premeditated” by the government. This suspension seems to be unconstitutional and illegal in nature as wilful and persistent obstruction of the business alone qualifies for the naming and suspension of a member. Moreover, suspension cannot be for an indefinite period.
  • Legislation without discussion: It was in the absence of a majority of the Opposition members that the government passed new laws. It includes rewriting the criminal code of the country, regulation of telecommunication and the appointment of the Election Commission of India The common feature of these laws is an unprecedented increase in the power of the executive, and it is not a coincidence that they were passed without a meaningful parliamentary debate.
  • Challenge to Democratic principles:Illegal and unconstitutional suspensions not only stifle opposition voices but also affects democratic discussions. This leads to disruptions in parliamentary proceedings and hinders the legislative work.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Adhere to Parliamentary Rules:Parliament should strictly follow Rules 374 of the Lok Sabha and Rules 256 of the Rajya Sabha while suspending members. It should not be done to satisfy the whims and fancies of the ruling government to supress the dissent of the opposition members.
  • Constructive role of opposition: Opposition should invest much time and effort in asking for a debate on the substantive legislative matters. They should play a constructive role in the Parliament and should be allowed to put forward their views and express themselves in a dignified manner.
  • Ensure dialogue: Such suspensions highlight the need for better methods to handle disagreements in Parliament. Political leaders should prioritize dialogue over suspensions to address disagreements in Parliament.

THE CONCLUSION:

The recent suspensions should be revisited to ensure they align with constitutional norms. The government should not use its majority to rush through legislation and should find ways to end the turmoil and bring harmony to our legislatures.

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 ‘’A parliament without opposition means an executive without accountability”. Discuss the statement in light of mass suspension of parliamentarians and passing of important Bills without effective discussion.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/law-of-numbers-on-the-winter-session-and-a-low-in-indias-parliamentary-democracy/article67677048.ece

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