Reducing Parliamentary Oversight – UPSC GS2

  • Fiscal year 2020-21 witnessed the lowest ever parliamentary sessions. The Lok Sabha (34 days), the Rajya Sabha (33 days).
  • The percentage of Bills referred to committees declined from 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha and just 11% in the current one.
  • Parliament needs to ensure scrutiny over the actions and bills passed by the governmentIts role is declining in ensuring the accountability of the executive.
  • Parliament sessions are ending prematurely due to various reasons. 
  • Partly, the impact of the pandemic led to the reduction of the Budget session of 2020 and the monsoon session of the parliament.
  • However, during the Pandemic, the Parliament could have adopted remote working and technological solutions, similar to other countries.
  • Unproductive parliament sessions resulted in a lack of public scrutiny over government functioning, financial expenditures, government bills.
What are the issues associated with the functioning of the parliament?
  • No Scrutiny of important bills: Declining Parliament’s responsibility to scrutinize important Bills passed by the parliament. For example, During the last session, 13 Bills were introduced, and none of them was referred to the parliamentary committee for examination. The important bills introduced are:
    • NCT Amendment Bill
    • Insurance Bill
  • Role of Parliamentary Committee undermined:  Parliamentary committees are instrumental in suggesting constructive changes to the bill to make the Code work better.
    • The percentage of Bills referred to committees declined from 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha and just 11% in the current one.
  • Diminishing the role of Rajya Sabha :  by classifying ordinary bills as money bills. For example, Non-financial items such as restructuring of tribunals, the introduction of electoral bonds, and amendments to the foreign contribution act introduced as part of Finance bills.
  • Lack of Debate: Lack of debate, discussion over the demand for grants. For example, In the last budget session, the Lok Sabha had only listed the budget of just five Ministries for detailed discussion and only three of these were discussed. The remaining 76% of the total budget was approved without any discussion. Whereas, the Constitution requires the Lok Sabha to approve the expenditure Budget of each department and Ministry.
  • Delay in appointments of key constitutional functionaries in Lok Sabha also impacted parliamentary functioning. For example, the current Lok Sabha did not appoint a Deputy Speaker which is a constitutional mandate.
What is the way forward?
The central role of the Parliament is to scrutinize the work of the government. In order to fulfill its constitutional mandate, the parliament has to
  • Create an effective research support system to aid Members of Parliament.
  • Provide sufficient time for MPs to examine issues.
  • Parliamentary Committees should be made to examine the Bills and budgets.
  • Finally, Public feedback should be taken before finalising the bill.

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