Parliamentary Disruptions

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    In News

    • Recently, Rajya Sabha suspended 19 Opposition members for ‘willfully obstructing the House’.

    More about the issue

    • 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.
    • Party supporting wrongdoing of members: 
      • Party members have the support of their parties in breaking the rules, the threat of suspension from the House does not deter them.
    • Other issues:
      • 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.

    Role of Presiding Officer in case of disruptions

    • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Presiding Officer — Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairman of Rajya Sabha — to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly. 
    • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker/ Chairman is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House.

    Outcomes:

    • Fall of parliamentary standards:
      • Opposition protests and ruling party vindictiveness have resulted in the fall of parliamentary standards.
      • Parliamentary discussion is a manifestation of a representative kind of democracy in operation, in the sense that representation of the people directly questions the government on matters of governance.
    • Reduced working hours of Parliament: 
      • The Parliament working hours are getting reduced day by day due to frequent disruptions.
    • Erosion of faith in Parliament:
      • Disruptions and ineffective functioning lead to a reduction in the trust of people in Parliament.
    • Wastage of taxpayers’ money:
      • Parliament not functioning to its fullest potential is the blatant wastage of taxpayers’ money.

    Suggestions

    • 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.
    • Prevent disruption of its proceedings: 
      • There should be more efforts to prevent the disruptions in cases of deliberations on critical national issues. 
      • It is the only mechanism to ensure that disrupting its proceedings or allowing them to be disrupted ceases to be a viable option.
    • Enforcement of a code of conduct for MPs and MLAs: 
      • There must be strict adherence to the code of conduct for MPs and MLAs so that disruption of proceedings ceases to be an option.
    • Modify the Anti-Defection Act: 
      • Currently, MPs who deviate from their parties’ position earn a fatal whipping and lose their seats.
        • There should be modifications to the anti-defection law so that it applies only in cases where the government’s survival is at stake.
    • 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.
    • Accord private member bills more space and respect: 
      • This will allow a variety of ideas to bubble up from the grassroots.
      • Governments will be able to listen to non-mainstream points of view and provide official support whenever appropriate.
      • This will enable your MPs to truly become lawmakers.
    • 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.
    • Enable “Public Interest Legislation: 
      • Create a system that will enable MPs to hear the viewpoints of affected citizens and initiate appropriate policy responses.
    • 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.

    Way ahead

    • An attempt must be made by parliamentarians to tamp down on this hostility with the onus on doing so being more on the ruling party and its representatives.
    • 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.

    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.

     

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] Disrupting parliamentary proceedings is contempt of the House, can’t be a privilege. Discuss, how Parliament must deal with disruptions?