- Their imp can be gauged as Woodrow Wilson—“Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, while Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.”
- Brain of Parliament + forms Intellectual compass for good governance in the country.
Role & Imp of PCs
- “Miniature Parliaments”—
- Deliberative core of Parl—Year round forum
- Strengthens Parl A/C of Govt
- Lawmaking—Detailed scrutiny of bill + solicit domain expert advice & elicit public opinion
- Forum for building—
- cross party & Inter-Ministerial consensus on legislation
- ↑ engagement with Opposition & relevant stakeholders
- Financial Prudence & 3Es–E.C—scrutiny of budget estimates—Help in Economic growth
- Work in non-partisan way— Not bound by populistic demands + closed door Meetings + members not whip bound
- Ensure Answerability of Executives—Committee on Govt Assurance
Present perspetive— Gradual marginalisation
- Bypassing PCs— Only 25% bills referred in 16th LS , (71% in 15th & 60% in 14th) + Bypassed in Matters of Great Public Imp— 370, Agri bills
- Politicization of proceedings— MPs follow party lines + Declining attendance of MPs
- Ordinance route, Money bill, Decline of Parl
- Short tenure of 1 yr—so Lack of specialisation & expertise
- NCRWC—All Bills shd be referred + Avail research support to PCs + 3 new committees be set up—On National Economy, To scrutinise CAB, On Legislations
- Venkaiah Naidu—Longer tenure for MPs in committees—To ↑ expertise & specialisation
Public Accounts committe
- Parl’s core financial oversight body
Imp of PAC / How it help in A/C?
- Watchdog of public purse— Financial a/c of Govt by—
- Examining CAG’s audit report on appropriation & finance a/c + on execution of projects & prog by various ministries– reports its finding to Parl.
- Examining public exp not only from legal & formal point of view but also from point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom & propriety
- It scrutinise the appropriation account to verify:
- If the funds were legally available.
- If a competent authority sanctioned it’s use.
- If the rules laid by procedure were followed.
Issues & Limitations
- Not able to enforce a/c of Govt in true sense bcz—
- Even if it brings out irregularities in public exp—No mechanisms to enforce them—Its recommendations are only advisory in nature
- Post mortem work—Examines Exp which has already been done by Govt
- However PAC at times, through its criticism of inefficient public exp creates a strong public opinion against Govt— Pressurises Govt to rectify defects
- To examine the budgetory estimates & suggest economies in public exp.
- Suggests alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency & economy in adm.
- Brings to Parl’s notice—ineffectiveness of policy & need for changes in it—Prevent executive from misappropriation or diversion of funds.
Issues & Limitations
- Post mortem—can only examine budget after it is voted upon
- Nowhere the power to question policies of Parl has been conferred upon it.
- Recommendations are advisory in nature
- Need for full-time, sector-specific research staff.
- Est a Parliamentary budget office—↑ Parl’s financial oversight.
- CAG performs retrospective audits, only after the fact— But PBO will provide a prospective, forward-looking economic & fiscal projections
- ↑quality of debate & scrutiny
Arguments for not legislating
- Proceedings r very dynamic—thus FoS & vote necessary to express sovereign will of people
- Codification will—
- Create a frame that cannot be crossed.
- subject to judicial scrutiny—impinge on SoP.
- Committee on Privileges of LS (2008)— No
Arguments for Codifying
- Rampant misuse—
- To hide misdeeds like corruption. Ex—SC in P.V. Narasimha Rao case held that bribe takers for raising question & voted r immune from prosecution
- Misused as a tool against critics—civil society & media—violates FoSE. Ex—In KN, journalists sent to jail for for writing defamatory articles against legislators
- Gross misbehavior—Violence etc—go unpunished for anything said or done in House
Why such misuse—
- No rules on what constitutes this
- Judiciary Cannot interfere (Art 121)
- Also it allow politicians to become judges in their own—Conflict of interest + violates R2E
- Est an independent committee to scrutinise house proceedings on regular basis
- Though they are must in P.D, yet check & regulation needed—Self-regulation by Houses
- Punish MPs for hateful speeches & derogatory remarks
- Be subjected to R.R—Public order, incitement of offence or defamation
- CA envisaged system of uncodified privileges as only a temporary measure— so codify clearly defining privileges, conditions of breach & penalties.
Ex—Australia passed PP Act 1987
- Restriction on FoSE of The ‘sovereign people of India’ While free speech to their rep needs to be revisited to est a greater balance b/w FRs & PP
Role of Opposition
- Integral part of “P.D”—Ivor Jennings—”If there is no opposition, there is no democracy”
- Walter Lippman—In a democracy, Opposition is not only constitutional but also indispensable.
- Vote share of Govt—44.2%, whereas vote share of all opposition parties combined is 55.8%— Thus this large section should legitimately be rep
- SALOP Act 1977– Gives Statutory recognition to LoP + accords him a status of Cabinet minister.
Evolution of Opposition
- Congress system— Opposition was at the margins— its status was like a Pressure group
- Coalition era— Its stature increased
- Present era—2nd Dominant party system– LoP not appointed
Significance of Opposition
- Lowell—Opposition is a “Bulwark against tyranny of a fanatical majority”—↑ A/C & legislative oversight
- Constructive criticism of Govt + To ↑ ethos of constitutionalism
- For Bipartisanship & neutrality in App of— CVC, CBI, CIC, Lokpal etc.
- Significance of LoP is quite evident as, Ivor Jennings calls LoP as “Alternative PM”.
- Rajni Kothari— Opp in India continues to be poorly organised & a divided force
- Opp More often use Parl as a site of protest
- Reflexive anti-govt approach— ↑“ordinance raj” & contributed to “Decline of Parliament”
- If no party secures 1/10 seats- Then leader of largest opp party, be recognised as LoP.
- Strenghten role of opposition:-
- Be given space in deciding business of house
- Marking out days when opp determine topics to be discussed—UK Parl reserves 20 days/yr
- Inst of “Shadow cabinet” can be formed
- Vice prez’s 15-Point Reforms Charter for Parliament
- Govt shd +vely act on concerns of Opp & need for R/S & constructive opp
- For success of P.D, an effective Opposition is a categorical imperative. Thus, If no Opposition exists, one should be created.
- Parl ethics shd be adhered to, whereby Opp should have a say & Govt should have a way.
Anti defection law
- For ‘combating the evil of political defections’—prevent “Aaya Rams & Gaya Rams”
- Loopholes enables formation of Govt by the Defectors, Govt of the Defectors & Govt for the Defectors.
- Defection vs Dissent– Restricts a legislator from voting acc to conscience + impedes legislative oversight
- Wholesale Resignation—> Politics of sequestration
- It is often flouted in spirit, if not in letter.
- Legislatures switch sides using lacuna in 2/3 clause
- Speaker’s inertia & legislators’ resignations.
- Partisan role of Speaker– Delay etc
- Violate democratic rights of FoS, vote & Conscien of elected MPs & MLAs—excessively empowers Party high command (Kihota Hollohon case & Parkash Singh Badal Vs UoI— ADL does not violate their freedom of speech, vote & conscience).
- It has rendered Individual positioning of MP toothless—Converts MPs from Rep of people to agents of party– Parl A/C decreases– “Hollowing out of legislature
Way forward w.r.t Anti-Defection Law
- Dinesh Goswami Committee—It should be applied only to confidence & no-confidence motions
- Question of disqualification be decided by President on advice of ECI
- Defectors should be barred from holding any public office.
- Law Commission (170th Report )—Limit issuance of whip only when Govt is in danger.
- A line shd be drawn b/w “crossing over” & intra-party dissent
- SC in Keisham Meghachandra Singh case recommended to est a ‘permanent Tribunal headed by a retired SC judge or CJ of HC for ADL
- UK Model— Expulsion from party but continue to remain independent member.
- ADL shd only be used as an insurance against betrayal of people’s mandate & not as a tool to suppress dissents.
- Parties shd respect constitutional propriety as law cannot ensure everything.
- Gautam Bhatia—ADL has resulted in destruction of democratic process. Members are switching sides not bcz of ideological compulsions but bcz of political blackmail.”
What reforms are needed?
Recently VP held that RS has played a significant role in S-E transformation of country but there are “Miles to go” w.r.t proper functions
- James Madison—Role of Upper House is to be a deliberative body besides balancing “ﬁckleness & passion” of elected House.
- Montesquieu—“The legislative body having 2 parts checks one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
- N.Gopalaswami Ayenger– To hold digniﬁed debates & to delay legislations which might be the outcome of passions of the moment
- Prof Shibban Lal Saksena– Would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of nation.
+ve role of RS
- Progressive legislations-
- Penalise untouchability (1954), prohibit dowry (1959), RTE (2009).
- Passed Women’s Reservation bill (2010) though LS didn’t take it up.
- Revising Chamber, Federal Chamber, Deliberative Chamber, Chamber of Continuity & Ventilating Public Grievances
- House for sobriety & second thought–During passage of GST Bill
- JS Mill– . A majority in a single assembly when assurem powerful character easily becomes despotic & overweening.
- Jeremy Waldron explained virtues of bicameralism—
- Offers opp for 2nd legislative scrutiny
- very imp in Westminister form of Govt where lower house is dominated by executives
Reforms in Post of Speaker
- Nehru-“Speaker rep dignity & freedom of house & bcz House rep nation, Speaker becomes a symbol of nation’s freedom & liberty. Thus, it should be an honoured position & should be occupied always by persons of outstanding ability and impartiality”
- Neutrality can be achieved by adopting British Model—Once elected, Speaker gives up all partisan aﬃliation
- Hamid Ansari—It encourage candidates to cultivate vote banks —Reinforce social divisions based on narrower considerations
- Venkaih Naidu—
- Though it has problem, but TINA at present—As electorate move away from ‘Identity Quotient’ to ‘Devt Quotient’ more & more would win with majority support of voters.
- PR would lead to promotion of further social & political cleavages besides being not practical due to implementation issues.
- Ashutosh Varshney– Vote-seat paradox of FPTP system generates an illusion—winners begins to believe that they have not only won a majority of seats, but also a majority of vote.
- Credibility, capability & capacity should be the yardstick for anyone to enter legislature & not caste, cash and criminality.
- Indian Dem is witnessing a paradoxical phase —Respect towards parliamentarians is ↓ whereas towards democracy is ↑.