We Need New Parliament Ethos Before A New Parliament Building

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9 years ago, when Narendra Modi and his party got the thumping victory in Lok Sabha win with getting a pure majority, which came for the first time ever after 30 years in Indian electoral politics, there were many photo-ops of PM Narendra Modi bowing down on his knees on the steps of the parliament.

Modi continued towards the Central Hall and gave an emotional speech — breaking down and gulping water — while he spoke about serving Mother India as its son. He spoke at length about how it is his duty to serve and his sacrifice should not to be considered as a favour he is doing to the people of India.

Many media houses claimed that this is the person who will worship the Parliament building as the temple of democracy and will keep the ethos of the house.  

Going a little further, in 1947, when India got Independence and the idea of India was being thought of, Parliament was considered as a place which would be an expression of the faith of the people of India in Indian democracy.

Not much after that, there had been serious attempts to kill the constitutional proceedings. 

As per the PRS study, the number of days of parliamentary functioning in an year has nearly halved on being compared with the time of Pt. Nehru. While the first Lok Sabha used to meet 138 days a year, the number has come to as low as 60 days per year under the government of Narendra Modi.

We have witnessed how Parliament was postponed and cut short during the Winter session of 2017 as the army of Ministers was busy in election campaign in Gujarat and hence they can’t be kept busy in un-essential things like Parliament proceedings. 

It had been more than 8 times that the parliament has been adjourned before its schedule. The disruptions in the house has become a new normal and instead of addressing the questions of the opposition, the government has come down on opposition members of the parliament by either muting the mics of opposition leaders or suspending them from Parliament just for asking the questions which may prove unhealthy for the government.

In the last session of the Parliament, only 29 questions were answered, with the government not making any effort to make the Parliament function.

We have witnessed that when the BJP government was not in majority in the upper house and had any doubt over passing of any bills, they used to pass the bills as money bills back in the summer of 2016, the government of the day found a way around this checks and balance mechanism when it cleared the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 as a Money Bill. Money Bills have to be cleared only by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha can give recommendations only, which can be completely ignored by the lower house.

The Aadhaar Bill creates a subsidy delivery mechanism and experts have questioned whether it is legitimate to pass it as a Money Bill — which is supposed to only deal with matters of taxation and appropriation of funds. This has also been challenged in the Supreme Court and we are yet to see what the highest court thinks about this particular challenge.

The same method was used by this government again when they put in provisions to create a monetary policy committee (which amends the RBI Act) and retrospective amendments to allow foreign funding to political parties (which amends the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) into the Finance Bill. Neither of these belong there. These provisions were also passed as parts of a Money Bill and Rajya Sabha had no control over the situation.

In a way, this Money Bill trick made sure the upper house becomes irrelevant — where BJP doesn’t have a majority — when it comes to consideration of these all-important laws.

Not just passing it as a money bill, we have seen how there had been various instances where the bills have been passed away even without discussions. We have witnessed in recent times that even the budget is being passed without holding any discussion!

There are some teething problems with each Bill that has been forcefully bulldozed through Parliament, from Aadhaar to the Taxation Laws to the Finance Bills of the past three years. Since no discussion or minimum discussions were allowed, since less time was given to consider the Bill and study it, there are very real problems that can arise in the future after passing fundamentally broken laws.

In 2017, the whole Finance Bill was changed in the last minute without warning while Yogi Adityanath gave a glorious victory speech in Lok Sabha.

There is a provision in the Constitution which allows laws to be passed temporarily when Parliament is not in session. Article 123 says:

If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require.

This is a temporary measure the government can use if there is an urgent situation requiring the passage of a law. Every government in the past has exploited this loophole to bypass Parliament and pass problematic laws. This government seems to have taken it to a whole new level.

On December 31, 2014, the Modi government issued an ordinance called Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014 (LARR). The proposed law allowed the government to take over any land—without a care for social impact assessment surveys—for purposes like national security, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors, and social infrastructure projects.

This particular ordinance kicked off a bizarre sequence of events.

Since ordinances are a temporary measure, the law requires them to be brought into Parliament in subsequent sessions and pass it. Accordingly, the LARR Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. Since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a majority in the lower house, the bill was passed after an intense debate on March 10, 2015. But the LARR was stuck in the Rajya Sabha.

Technically the ordinance should have lapsed, but the government cried, “Have no fear! Article 123 is here!”. They reissued it again. And again.

Then came a time when Demonetisation was announced and the PM Modi, instead of discussing it in Parliament, ran away on foreign trip to Japan and made every attempt to make a mockery of the people who were dying in long queues.

The government brought CAA in the same parliament building against the minorities of the country when they were by Indians irrespective of their 

Then came the time of abrogation of Article 370, with the government, using its majority in Lok Sabha announced it, without considering the thoughts of the representatives of the people from the constituencies being affected. Not just they were not heard, they were put behind the bars or were home incarcerated.

Vice President and ex-Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu used to keep saying that Parliament is a place for three Ds: “Discuss. Debate. Decide”

It’s funny how every member, when given an opportunity, sings praises about the great institution of Parliament and how everyone respects it. Just look at the Constitution Day speeches when member after member spoke about the greatness of the Constitution and about the superior nature of our chaotic, yet functioning democracy. But when it comes to actually acting on these noble thoughts, a frightfully limited number of members put these thoughts into action. Most of them would rather “Diss. Disrupt. Destroy”.

Not just democracy being killed, we have witnessed how the MPs of the ruling party had made fun of opposition members by mimicry or by calling female members of parliaments as “Surpankha” 

People are dissing the institution for being just a pointless round building which is a gigantic waste of taxpayer money. Disruptions have been normalised as news channels show the House primarily when it’s in chaos, but rarely when it’s functioning. The destruction of everything it stands for has been systematic and, thanks to this majority government, has accelerated

With the new building being inaugurated tomorrow, it is just a hope that in coming days, the opposition will get a fair chance to speak in Parliament, their voices will be heard and no MP will be debarred from the house on asking serious questions.

Disclaimer :- This post is independently published by the author. Infeed neither backs nor assumes liability for the opinions put forth by the author.

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