Insights into Editorial: How the 16th Lok Sabha fared
The recently concluded 16th Lok Sabha had its final sitting, marking an end to a disappointing five-year period.
The 16th Lok Sabha was unique in the sense that for the first time in three decades, the number of first-time MPs outnumbered those who had walked into the floor of the House earlier. Of the 543 MPs, 314 were first-timers, accounting for 58 per cent of the strength of the House.
But the concerning point is this Lok Sabha was surpassed only by the preceding one in terms of the low number of hours it worked.
Lok Sabha met for 1,615 hours, 40% lower than all full-term Parliaments. This shows a decline in the number of sitting days over the decades as well as a significant part of the scheduled time lost to disruptions.
16th Lok Sabha saw 20 per cent less work than the earlier one: Report:
The 16th Lok Sabha passed a total of 133 Bills, of which six per cent were passed within 30 minutes. The number of Bills passed within half an hour in the previous Lok Sabha was 26 per cent.
This 16th Lok Sabha sat for 331 days (against a 468-day average for all previous full-term Lok Sabhas), and lost 16% of its time to disruptions.
In terms of referral of Bills to various committees, the 16th Lok Sabha referred only 25 per cent of the Bills, while the previous House had referred around 70 per cent of the Bills to various panels.
Glitches in the Temple of our Democracy:
A big casualty was Question Hour: the Lok Sabha lost a third of this time and the Rajya Sabha 60%, consequently, just 18% of the starred questions in each House got an oral reply.
Another notable event was the Speaker blaming unruly behaviour for her inability to count the required number of MPs demanding a no-confidence motion but allowing the Union Budget to be passed in the interim.
What type of Bills are Money Bills?
The Constitution defines a Bill as a Money Bill if it contains provisions that exclusively relate to taxes or government spending.
This brings us to the manner in which some Bills were passed. The Aadhaar Act was passed as a Money Bill and upheld by the Supreme Court.
Importantly, such Bills need majority support only in the Lok Sabha, with the Rajya Sabha having just a recommendatory role.
The Finance Bill is traditionally introduced with the Budget, and contains all the legislative changes to tax laws. Therefore, it is usually a Money Bill.
However, Finance Bills, have included items which have no relation to taxes or to expenditure of the government.
- The Finance Bill, 2015 included provisions to merge the regulator of commodity exchanges with the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
- The Finance Bill, 2016 included amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act which relate to donations to non-profits.
- The Finance Bill, 2017 went further and changed the compositions of 19 quasi-judicial bodies such as the Securities Appellate Tribunal, the National Green Tribunal and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), and repealed seven other bodies including the Competition Appellate Tribunal.
Key legislation happened in 16th Lok Sabha:
Parliament made some important laws. There was some effort to address the issues of corruption, black money and leakages.
- The Goods and Services Tax was implemented and the bankruptcy code was enacted.
- The IIM Act gave premier management educational institutions a level of autonomy not available to other public educational institutions.
- The Juvenile Justice Act allowed children (between 16 and 18 years) accused of committing heinous crimes to be prosecuted as adults.
- New Acts were passed: for treatment of mental health patients, and those with HIV/AIDS. Another Act was passed to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.
- The Prevention of Corruption Act was amended to make bribe-giving an offence.
- Laws were made requiring a declaration of assets held outside India, and to declare as fugitives those economic offenders who had fled the country. The Aadhaar Act was passed to create a biometric-based identity system.
Twenty two bills set to lapse with dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha:
Twenty two out of the 55 government bills pending consideration of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, are set to lapse with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
There were also eight sessions where all MPs were present in the House. These included the eventful impeachment motion during the last Monsoon Session that went on for a record 11 hours.
Review the anti-defection law is the Need of the Hour:
Parliament plays the central role in our democracy by holding the government to account and scrutinising proposed laws and financial priorities.
- With the end of the 16th Lok Sabha, it is time to ponder on how to make this institution more effective. An important step will be by reviewing the anti-defection law that has hollowed out the institution.
- Anti-defection law It affects the independence of MPs/ MLAs. No incentive for MPs/MLAs to research and understand on policies.
- Constitution drafters didn’t intend to give the control of members to political parties. Interestingly, it’s only in the 10th schedule, which was included in 1985 that political parties are mentioned in constitution.
- Many members speak up their mind and conviction –more discussion and thus better debates and solutions in parliament. Anti-defection law is against this.
- Nowadays, no real democratic discussions happen inside political parties about major issues affecting the country.
Some Recommendations already provided are:
Therefore, Anti-defection law should be applied only to confidence and no-confidence motions (Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms, 1990) or only when the government is in danger (Law Commission 170th report, 1999).
Instead of making Speaker the authority for disqualification, the decision should be made by the president or the governor on the advice of the Election Commission.
This would make the process similar to the disqualification procedure as given in Representation of Peoples Act (RPA).
Individual MPs and MLAs need to be empowered to think independently.
In a diverse country like India, members also represent their constituencies. Hence, every member needs to be given voice to give voice to all regions and sections of the population.