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Approach:

  1. Define the pre-legislative consultation framework.
  2. Need for pre-legislative consultation in the wake of reduced parliamentary scrutiny.
  3. Mention the provisions of the Legislation and Expenditure Accountability Bill 2022.
  4. Highlight the significance of pre legislative consultation policy.
  5. Conclusion.

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.

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