Rained out

| Updated on August 12, 2021

The chaos in the Monsoon Session was a shame. Both govt and Opposition have to share the blame

Once again, our representatives put up a spectacularly poor show in the just concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament. The seventh session of the 17th Lok Sabha that concluded on Wednesday lost 74.46 hours due to interruptions and forced adjournments. The number of matters of urgent public importance raised during the Zero Hour that had totalled 1,066 in the first Session of the present Lok Sabha was zilch this time. Rajya Sabha lost 76.26 hours due to the pandemonium that reached its zenith in the last two days. This is not the first time Parliament has been thrown into such chaos. Disruption of Parliament has become a feature of India’s democracy in recent years. The 2010 Winter Session was washed out as the Opposition did not allow any business to be transacted over their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G scam. This time, there was a crucial difference — despite the disruptions, the government with a majority of 303 in the 543-member Lok Sabha and a formidable tally in the Upper House, was able to push through 20 critical pieces of legislation.

Even more noteworthy is the average time spent on the passage of each of these Bills which, according to PRS data, was less than 34 minutes. The Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill which converts certain offences into civil defaults and alters the nature of punishment for these offences and defines small LLPs, provides for appointment of certain adjudicating officers and establishment of special courts, was passed within five minutes. Another path-breaking legislation, the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021, which reduces the government’s minimum shareholding criteria of 51 per cent in the five insurance companies and allows it to exit one of the companies, was introduced on August 2 and passed the same day without any debate. The Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021, which has far-reaching implications in terms of parliamentary power in the constitution of tribunals, was introduced on August 2 and passed the next day, again without any debate. The collective wisdom of Parliament is not being brought to bear to craft legislation. This leads to flawed laws and the promulgation of ordinances to enforce amendments.

The government and Opposition are both responsible for this sorry state of affairs. If the government has proved unequal to the task of building bridges with the Opposition, the latter has failed to understand that disruption is hardly an effective or relevant strategy when confronted with a government that has a comfortable majority to pass Bills and does not hesitate to leverage that advantage. Public interest requires that the Opposition revises its practice to disrupt and create chaos. It may have served as a legitimate parliamentary strategy in the past but in the current context it only helps the government to push its agenda through the chaos. That’s something that is neither in the interest of the country nor the Opposition.

Published on August 12, 2021

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