What makes a democracy function properly is the effective and efficient functioning of all the organs of the government. The legislature, executive and the judiciary must have clear demarcation of functioning and work harmoniously. In India, people have their reservations about all the three organs, but most of the focus is towards the functioning of the legislature.
The primary function of the legislature is to make laws. It is supposed to conduct debates and deliberations and pass laws accordingly. But we have observed that it is not always that the parliament functions properly and smoothly. Opponent parties often disrupt the parliamentary process for various reasons. It may be to hold the incumbent government responsible for an improper executive action or for demanding an apology or answer for any certain event. It may be even be out of extremely mala fide intentions, for example, to hamper the legislative record of the incumbent government.
The politics of parliamentary disruptions is not quite a new one, but earlier such actions were condemned more strongly. Proper parliamentary behaviour was must then. A very good example of the secular, economic right-wing Swatantra Party can be given to illustrate the highest standards of parliamentary conduct. It was mandated for the Swatantra party members that they shall not stage walkouts or disrupt the parliament or state assemblies. Strict action was taken within the party against the few members who staged such walkouts. They also did not believe in opposing initiatives just for the sake of opposing, a trait which the present and future opposition must adopt.
It must also be noted that parliamentary disruptions are not exclusive to any one party. Last year, 25 Congress MPs were suspended by the Speaker for disrupting the parliament for demanding the resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Although this is a somewhat welcome step, the BJP supporting it is certainly quite ironical considering that the Bharatiya Janata Party had previously disrupted the parliament at various instances and justified its stance too. Arun Jaitley in an article supported the BJP’s move to stall the parliament and argued that it was an important move to expose the government, however recently Mr. Jaitley had to rely on Jawaharlal Nehru’s wisdom to take a strong stance against such disruptions. Further, the BJP has also disrupted state assemblies continually, a famous incident being one in which BJP MLA O.P. Sharma was marshalled out of the Delhi Assembly for disrupting the assembly. This clearly shows the double standards of the BJP.
Further, recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a very strong stance against parliamentary disruptions and asked for the support of the opposition in conducting legislative proceedings properly. The most positive development regarding the issue is that a bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in March this year by Jaydev Galla of the TDP seeking for the termination of the membership if someone disrupts the proceedings of the parliament. It is true that in a parliament the opposition has the right to dissent and dissent strongly, but they must maintain high ethical standards. The opposition must only debate and dissent and not disrupt. The opposition just like the party in power has a duty towards the people it is representing, it is as much accountable. It is the opposition’s duty to maintain proper parliamentary conduct and raise key issues whenever necessary. But they must also carry on its duty as law-makers for the nation.
Indeed, it must be noted that the biggest stakeholders of the parliamentary process are us, the people. An estimate, put forward by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in 2012, put the cost of running the parliament at Rs. 2.5 lakh per minute. This of course comes from the tax payers’ money its wastage must not be tolerated. It is also necessary that all the laws prevailing in the nation are well thought out and do not suffer from vagueness and arbitrariness, and for that efficient and productive functioning of the legislature is imperative.
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