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PRS Legislative Research Releases Annual Review of State Laws 2023

Context:

PRS Legislative Research has published its “Annual Review of State Laws 2023,” offering a comprehensive analysis of the performance and functioning of State legislatures across India. The report provides valuable insights into various key aspects of state legislation and governance.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Report
  2. Improving Legislation for Better Governance and Accountability
  3. Conclusion

Key Highlights of the Report:

Budget Passage Without Discussion:

  • In 2023, approximately 40% of the Rs 18.5 lakh crore budget presented by 10 States was passed without discussion.
  • Madhya Pradesh saw the highest proportion, with 85% of its Rs 3.14 lakh crore budget passed without discussion.
  • The process involves general discussion, scrutiny of demands by committees, discussion, and voting on Ministry expenditure, following six stages.
  • Kerala, Jharkhand, and West Bengal had similar trends, raising concerns about transparency and scrutiny of state finances.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC):

  • In 2023, the PAC held 24 sittings and tabled an average of 16 reports in the States considered.
  • Five states, including Maharashtra, did not table any reports, while Tamil Nadu led with 95 reports, highlighting disparities in accountability.
  • Bihar and Uttar Pradesh witnessed significant PAC sittings without tabling any reports.

Swift Legislative Action:

  • 44% of bills were passed either on the same day of introduction or the following day, consistent with previous years.
  • States like Gujarat, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Puducherry, and Punjab passed all bills on the same day of introduction.
  • Kerala and Meghalaya exhibited a slower but potentially more deliberative process, taking longer than five days to pass over 90% of their bills.

Ordinances:

  • Uttar Pradesh issued the highest number of ordinances (20), followed by Andhra Pradesh (11) and Maharashtra (9), covering various subjects.
  • Kerala showed a significant decrease in ordinances compared to 2022, prompting questions about their necessity and effectiveness.

Overview of Law Making:

  • On average, states passed 18 bills each in 2023, with Maharashtra leading with 49 bills and Delhi and Puducherry passing only 2 each.
  • While 59% of bills received assent within a month, delays were observed in states like Assam, Nagaland, and West Bengal.
  • Only 23 out of over 500 bills passed were referred to legislative committees for deeper examination before being passed.

Improving Legislation for Better Governance and Accountability:

Standardize PAC Operations:

  • Establish guidelines and protocols for PAC operations, including sitting frequency, reporting requirements, and timelines for report submission.
  • Implement mechanisms to monitor and evaluate PAC performance regularly to ensure substantive discussions and timely report tabling.

Time Limit for Governor’s Assent:

  • Introduce a legislative framework setting a time limit for the Governor’s assent to bills.
  • Mandate the Governor to provide clear and specific reasons for any delay in granting assent to enhance transparency in the process.

Enhanced Budgetary Discussions:

  • Advocate for thorough discussions and debates on budgets before passage in the legislature.
  • Strengthen the role of State Finance Commissions, ensuring their recommendations are considered during legislative budget discussions.

Implement Recommendations:

  • Implement recommendations from commissions such as the Sarkaria Commission and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.
  • Introduce mechanisms for public scrutiny of parliamentarians via a parliamentary ombudsman and ensure adequate session days for state legislatures and the national parliament.

Conclusion:

The findings highlight the imperative for enhanced transparency and accountability mechanisms in state legislatures to ensure effective governance. Addressing disparities in budgetary processes, accountability mechanisms, legislative efficiency, and the utilization of ordinances is paramount for upholding democratic principles and ensuring efficient governance at the state level.

-Source: The Hindu


May 2024
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