According to data from PRS Legislative Research, the 16th Lok Sabha(2014-19) experienced a loss of 16% of its scheduled time due to disruptions. Additionally, the past four parliamentary sessions have been abbreviated, with the Monsoon session functioning for only 21 hours.
Disruptions in Parliament not only disturb legislative business but also weaken parliamentary oversight over the executive, potentially hampering the nation’s growth.
Measures to prevent disruption of Parliament:
1 Legislative Measures:
- Parliament (Enhancement of Productivity) Bill, 2017: Enactment of this bill establishes a minimum number of session days (100 days for Rajya Sabha) for Parliament.
- Performance-related pay: Linking the salaries of members to their attendance and performance.
- Reviewing the Anti-Defection Law: Evaluating the Anti-Defection Law, which often compels MPs to conform to party lines and disrupt the functioning of Parliament, as it grants excessive control to political parties over their members.
2. Implementation measures:
- Strict enforcement of the Code of Conduct: The existing code of conduct for MPs in Lok Sabha, which has been in place since 1952, should be updated and strictly enforced.
- Informed training of Members: Instituting arrangements that provide comprehensive training to Members from diverse fields, reducing the knowledge gap and fostering productive parliamentary discussions.
- Building broad consensus on introduced proposals: Facilitating pre-legislative scrutiny by making bills publicly available or sending them to the respective Parliamentary Standing Committees before their introduction in the legislature.
3. Innovative measures:
- Introduction of Opposition days: Allocating specific days for the opposition to set the agenda for parliamentary discussions, following the practices in the UK and Canada where 20 out of 100 days are assigned to the opposition.
- Parliament Disruption Index’: Establishing a monitoring mechanism, as proposed by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Harivansh in 2019, to track disruptions in Parliament and state legislatures.
- Productivity Meter: Implementing a metric to measure the number of hours wasted on disruptions and adjournments.
- Formulating an annual calendar of sittings: Adopting the practice of developing an annual calendar for various legislative activities, as observed in the USA, UK, and Canada. This allows for better planning of legislative business and enhances communication between the government and opposition, reducing misunderstandings and subsequent disruptions.
4. Technological measures:
- Utilizing technology for virtual meetings: Exploring the use of virtual meetings to facilitate crucial legislative work, especially in times of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the approach adopted by Indian courts.
- NCRWC recommendation: Implementing the recommendation of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) to ensure that the Lok Sabha meets for 120 days and the Rajya Sabha for 100 days each year, while state legislative assemblies meet for 90 days. Increased sittings prevent bills from lapsing at the end of a term and allow for more extensive discussions on proposed legislation.
- Monitoring by Citizens: Encouraging citizen-led pressure groups and NGOs to regularly evaluate the performance of MPs and the overall functioning of Parliament.
While democratic disruptions of Parliament are not always undesirable, they can be necessary when the executive uses Parliament to evade issues and stifle discussions. In such situations, obstruction in Parliament favors democracy. Therefore, the government should provide greater opportunities for the opposition and strive to build consensus on critical national issues to avoid unnecessary disruptions in parliamentary proceedings.