Rising issues in the Functioning of Parliament

Indian Parliament

Context: Speaker of Lok Sabha Om Birla writes about the Function of Parliament, Responsibilities of Member of Parliament and increasing Role of Technology in a democracy.

Parliament of India 

India’s democratic legacy can be traced back to ancient times, with references to institutions that facilitated deliberation and debate. This deep-rooted democratic ethos has persisted through history. Which reflection can be seen in Parliament.

Indian Parliament is the supreme legislative body of India. 

  • It comprises of 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

Functions of Parliament 

  • Legislative Function: The primary function of Parliament is to make laws for the effective governance of the country.
    • It can enact laws on subjects listed in the Union List and Concurrent List. 
    • Additionally, it can legislate on State List subjects under specific circumstances, as outlined in the Constitution.
  • Executive Function: Parliament exercises oversight over the executive branch of the government through mechanisms like question hour, zero hours, and various committees.
    • It can also express a lack of confidence in the government through specific parliamentary procedures e.g., non-confidence motion, refusing motion of thanks.
  • Financial Function: It reviews and approves the budget, ensuring that government funds are allocated for approved purposes.
    • No fund can be taken out of the consolidated fund of India without its approval.
  • Constitutional Amendment: Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, subject to basic structure doctrine.
    • Constitutional amendments can be made through different procedures under Article 368 of the Constitution.
  • Judicial Function: The Parliament has a role in the judicial process, including the power to impeach the President, remove the Vice-President, and recommend the removal of judges, Chief Election Commissioner, and Comptroller and Auditor General for violations of constitutional norms.
  • Electoral Function: Parliament participates in the election of the President and Vice President of India. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha also elect their respective speakers and deputy speakers.
  • Emergency Powers: The Parliament approves all three types of emergencies (National Emergency, State Emergency, and Financial Emergency) declared by the President of India.
  • Administrative Function: Parliament has authority over various administrative matters, such as creating or dissolving state legislative councils, altering state boundaries, and regulating the jurisdiction and organization of the High Courts and Supreme Court.
  • Information Gathering: Parliament serves as a reliable source of information about the government’s performance and actions. Ministers are obligated to provide information when requested by members.
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: Parliament respects and promotes diversity in all its dimensions and is committed to reaching out to weaker sections of society. It strives to make society more inclusive and fairer through legislation and debates.
  • Parliamentary Committees: Parliamentary committees complement the work of Parliament by scrutinizing bills, budgetary proposals, and government ministries in detail. They play a crucial role in oversight and ensuring the efficiency of government operations.

Role of Member of Parliament (MP) 

  • Legal Obligation: MPs in India seek endorsement every 5 years for their plans and programs from their constituents through free, fair, and open elections. This underscores the democratic principle that MPs derive their authority from the people they represent.
  • Constitutional and Moral Authority: MPs are bestowed with both constitutional and moral authority. They have the authority to enact laws, set political goals, allocate resources, and hold the executive accountable for its actions.
  • Voice of the Common Citizens: MPs serve as the voice of the common citizens, bridging the gap between the government and the people.
    • They are responsible for bringing the concerns, issues, and difficulties of their constituents to the attention of the government and the nation.
  • Executive Accountability: MPs play a crucial role in securing accountability of the executive branch of government.
    • They have instruments at their disposal, such as the Constitution, Rules of Procedure, and precedents, to hold the government accountable for its acts and decisions.
  • Parliamentary Privileges: The Constitution grants MPs certain rights, privileges, and immunities to enable them to discharge their responsibilities efficiently and effectively.
    • These privileges protect the autonomy, authority, and dignity of Parliament from interference by other branches of the state.
  • Responsibility to Uphold Dignity: MPs are morally bound to speak responsibly in Parliament and adhere to the highest parliamentary norms. Their dignified and decorous behavior is expected as they are looked upon as role models.
  • Respect for Democratic Values: MPs collectively contribute to creating a vibrant and living embodiment of the will of the people.
    • They respect and uphold constitutional values, the unity of the nation, and the common good while accommodating all shades of opinion.

Issues in the Functioning of Indian Parliament 

  • Disruptions and Unruly Behavior: The disruptions have become increasingly common and have resulted in lower productivity of the House which hinders meaningful deliberation and debate on national issues.
  • Decline in Parliamentary Norms: Members are morally bound to speak responsibly, but there have been instances of frivolous, baseless, and defamatory allegations resulting in a decline in parliamentary norms.
  • Lack of Informed Debate: Disruptions have led to the passing of important legislation without detailed debates.
    • This means that critical issues may not receive the thorough discussion they deserve, which is essential for well-informed decision-making.
  • Obstructionism: While the right to question and dissent is integral to democracy, obstructionism has become a problem. Some members use disruption to express disapproval rather than engaging in informed debate, wit, and humor.

Use of technology in Parliament  

  • Digital Sansad App: The Digital Sansad app has been developed and continuously improved to enhance communication and engagement between members of Parliament, legislative bodies, and citizens.
    • This app provides access to parliamentary proceedings, documents, and updates.
  • Social Media Presence: The Parliament of India has upgraded its social media coverage to effectively engage with the youth and the public. This includes sharing information, resources, and updates on social media platforms.
  • Green Building Norms: The new Parliament building incorporates top-rated green building norms and modern technology to reduce its carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency. This reflects a commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness.
  • Efficiency Enhancement: The integration of technology is aimed at enhancing the efficiency of parliamentary processes, including document management, communication, and access to information.
  • Connectivity: The use of technology helps connect members of Parliament, legislative bodies, and citizens more effectively, enabling better communication, transparency, and awareness of parliamentary activities.
  • Archival Resources: Technology is likely used to digitize and archive parliamentary resources, making historical records and documents more accessible to the public.
  • Remote Participation: Technology may enable remote participation in parliamentary sessions and committee meetings, allowing members to engage in their duties even when not physically present in Parliament.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The use of technology can enhance transparency in parliamentary proceedings, making it easier for citizens to monitor the actions and decisions of their representatives.
  • Constitutional and Legal Compliance: The integration of technology likely adheres to constitutional and legal requirements to ensure the proper functioning of the Parliament.

Way Forward

  • Restoring Pre-eminence of Parliament: MPs should not miss the opportunities to demand answers from the government and to raise important constituency-related issues rather than causing disruption.
  • Need for Technological Integration: The 21st century demands that Parliament embrace technology to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accessibility. While efforts have been made to introduce information technology, there is still room for improvement in fully harnessing technology’s potential.
  • E-Sansad: The Parliament of India should move towards becoming a “e-Sansad,” signifying its commitment to utilising technology for more effective governance and communication.

Despite the challenges, the Indian Parliament is described as a vibrant and living embodiment of the will of the people. It has successfully navigated various discordant notes and upheld constitutional values, national interest, unity, and the common good.

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