Parliamentary Sessions

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    • The Winter Session of Parliament was adjourned sine die recently, six days ahead of schedule.

    More about the news

    • Productivity of the Parliament:
      • Starting December 7, 2022, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha registered productivity of about 97 per cent and 103 per cent, respectively, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
      • This is the eighth consecutive session since the 2020 Budget Session that a session was curtailed.
    • Bills of this session:
      • Lok Sabha passed seven Bills and Rajya Sabha cleared nine Bills. 
        • Altogether, both houses passed nine Bills, as two Bills were passed by Lok Sabha in an earlier session. 
        • Among the important Bills that were passed include 
          • The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill and 
          • The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill. 
          • Bills to include certain communities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the Scheduled Tribes list were also passed.
    • Bills that could not make it to the House:
      • None of the major Bills like the Trade Marks (Amendment) Bill and The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 made it to Parliament this time.
    • Overall performance of the session:
      • The winter session had a relatively smooth run compared to the previous few sessions when extreme acrimony between the Opposition and the Treasury benches was observed. 
      • This time, the Opposition parties largely stuck to walkouts, responding to the government turning down their demands.

    More about the Sessions of Parliament

    • Parliament of India: 
      • It is the supreme legislative body of India. The Indian Parliament comprises the President and the two Houses – Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha (House of the People). 
      • The President has the power to summon and prorogue either House of Parliament or to dissolve Lok Sabha. 
    • Convening a session of Parliament:
      • The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government. 
      • The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs
        • The committee currently comprises ministers, including those for Defence, Home, Finance, and Law. 
      • The decision of the Committee is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
    • Three sessions of Parliament:
      • India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year
      • Budget Session:
        • The longest, the Budget Session, starts towards the end of January and concludes by the end of April or the first week of May. 
        • The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
      • Monsoon Session:
        • The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August. 
      • Winter Session:
        • The parliamentary year ends with a three-week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.
    • Duration & dates of the sessions:
      • Over the years, governments have shuffled around the dates of sessions to accommodate political and legislative exigencies. 
      • Sessions have been cut short or delayed to allow the government to issue Ordinances. For example, in 2016, the Budget Session was broken up into two separate sessions to enable the issuance of an Ordinance.
      • Sessions have also been stretched on occasions. 

    UK Model of Parliament Working

    • In the UK, Parliament meets over 100 days a year & opposition parties get  20 days on which they decide the agenda for discussion.
    • The main opposition party gets 17 days and the remaining three days are given to the second-largest opposition party. 
    • In the UK, the PM is bound by a constitutional convention to respond to questions directly posed to him by MPs.
    • Canada also has a similar concept of opposition days.

    Issues & criticisms on Parliamentary functioning 

    • Decline in the sittings days:
      • Over the years, there has been a decline in the sittings days of Parliament. During the first two decades of Parliament, Lok Sabha met for an average of a little more than 120 days a year. 
      • This has come down to approximately 70 days in the last decade.
      • Reasons for fewer sittings:
        • One institutional reason given for this is the reduction in the workload of Parliament by its Standing Committees
        • However, several Committees have recommended that Parliament should meet for at least 120 days in a year. 
    • Disruptions & Political rivalries:
      • Disruption has become the norm, with the Opposition seeking to use the debates as a ploy to gain publicity.
      • Representatives of political parties are utilising Parliament more to showcase political spectacle than to use it as a forum for serious legislative functioning.
    • Resort to money Bill route: 
      • Several key pieces of legislation have been passed as Money Bills, despite the fact that they did not fit this category.
    • Less scrutiny of Bills: 
      • Most of the bills were passed without any scrutiny, as they were passed in the same session in which they were introduced.
    • Frequent Adjournment of Parliament sessions: 
      • In recent times, Parliament sessions are adjourned frequently. This hampers the work of Parliament.

    Suggestions

    • Increase in the working days of Parliament: 
      • Our legislature should meet throughout the year, like the parliaments of most developed democracies.
        • But these increased days will not help prevent disruptions if opposition parties don’t have the opportunity to debate and highlight important issues.
    • Televise parliamentary committee proceedings: 
      • Bipartisanship and well-researched discussions are often the hallmarks of parliamentary committees. 
      • Yet this crucial aspect of the parliamentary process is well-hidden from the public.
    • Bring Transparency to the Clash of Interests: 
      • Before legislation is passed, various publics and groups find a way to articulate their viewpoints to key political decision-makers.
        • In India, this usually happens behind the scenes.
    • Developing an Index: 
      • A parliamentary disruption index should be created as a measure to monitor disruptions in legislatures and check indiscipline. 
      • It would also lead to the availability of more time for debate and discussion on issues before the House.

    Way Ahead

    • There are enough tools, mechanisms, structures and precedents in India’s parliamentary history that can be relied upon by the current set of legislators to bring back useful deliberation. 
    • Parliamentarians must realise that the bedrock of a functioning democracy is a flourishing legislature.

    Source: TH