- Define the pre-legislative consultation framework.
- Need for pre-legislative consultation in the wake of reduced parliamentary scrutiny.
- Mention the provisions of the Legislation and Expenditure Accountability Bill 2022.
- Highlight the significance of pre legislative consultation policy.
In 2014, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP). Under this, the Union Government is required to place legislative proposals in the public domain for a period of at least 30 days before submitting to the Cabinet for consideration.
Each such draft proposal must be accompanied by a brief note: (a) Justifying its necessity; (b) Financial implications; (c) Impact on the environment; (d) Impact on the Fundamental Rights of the people; (e) The social and financial costs of the Bill. Comments received from the public, need to be summarized on the website of the concerned Ministry/Department.
Need for pre-legislative consultation in India:
Scrutiny by Parliament: Bills go through varying levels of discussions and scrutiny in the Legislature. When a Bill is introduced in a House of the Parliament the Presiding Officer can refer it to the appropriate Parliamentary Committee(s). The Parliamentary Committee deliberates the Bill in detail. However, the process is by-passed many times because the scrutiny is not mandatory e.g., the Constitution Amendment Bill to enable 10% reservation in education and employment for Economically Weaker Sections was passed by the Parliament in just 2 days.
In the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19), only 25% of the Bills introduced were referred to Committees. In contrast, 71% and 60% of the Bills were examined by Committees during 15th (2009-14) and 14th (2004-09) Lok Sabhas, respectively.
Provisions of the Legislation and Expenditure Accountability Bill 2022:
The Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in April 2022 in the Rajya Sabha. It is based on the OECD recommendations on policy-making practices. The Bill goes two steps further than the 2014 Pre-legislative Consultation Policy.
- It will belegally binding on the Government.
- It adds the dimension of a post-legislative checkwith fail-safe mechanisms.
- It revolves around two technical assessments: a Legislation Impact Analysisor LIA (and correspondingly, a scheme impact analysis for public schemes) and a Post-Implementation Assessment (PIA) report.
- The LIA report must offer, inter-alia, an assessment of potential costs and benefits to society, the objectives of the intervention with clear measurable outcomes, and the experience of other countries.
- The PIA has three aspects: (a) Performance measurement,which evaluates schemes and laws against the objectives defined in the LIA; (b) Impact assessment, which evaluates qualitative aspects like social, environmental and legal effects and spill overs; (c) Perception surveys that measure people’s satisfaction.
- The Bill requires laws and schemes to have expiry dates (sunset clauses). Such a provision would allow the Legislature to re-make laws and schemes, ensuring that the nation stays up to date on the evolving world dynamics.
- Moreover, if a law or scheme fails its PIA test in three consecutive reviews, it would automatically be repealed.
Significance of pre-legislative consultation:
- An effective Pre-Legislative Consultation Framework will ensure that any law or scheme must be based on the principle that its benefits outweigh the costs.
- Public participation would get enhanced if the Pre-Legislative Consultation Framework is strengthened. It will result in greater acceptability and better policy formulation – democratizing the access to Constitutional Rights and values.
- A robust framework will result in improving the transparency and accountability in the legislative process thereby enhancing trust of the masses in legislature.
- The Executive is an integral part of the Legislature, and when coupled with the anti-defection law, it assumes unfettered control over the Legislature. In such a scenario an effective Pre-Legislative Consultation Framework is desired to control its dominance and ensure accountability to the Legislature.
- Pre-Legislative Consultation will help in better formulation of laws and address concerns of all stakeholders. This will reduce litigation post the passage of laws.
- This will also address the concerns regarding Judicial over-reach to an extent.
The Government needs to strengthen the Pre-Legislative Consultation Framework in order to improve transparency and accountability of the legislative process. This is needed to enhance the Constitutional culture in India.