The last session of the 14th Lok Sabha ended last week- the stage is now set for the next general elections.
Since we can see on television how the proceedings in the Lok Sabha take place, we are under no illusion that the affairs of our nation are discussed in serious tones by our elected representatives, or that bills are passed after due deliberation.
But if we look at the statistics, the situation is even worse than we imagine.
In his concluding speech, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said that the current Lok Sabha had only 332 sittings and it had wasted 24% of its total time.
Great hype was created in this Lok Sabha about Parliament’s GeNext but their performance was not encouraging. MPs below 40 years had the lowest attendance record in the house, according to statistics compiled by the Parliamentary Research Service. They also participated less in debates than their older counterparts.
As the term of this Lok Sabha drew to a close, bills were passed in unseemly haste, with little or no deliberation.
At the end of the special session of the Lok Sabha in Dec. 2008, the Lok Sabha passed 8 bills in 17 minutes. “On Tuesday afternoon, when BJP MPs stormed the well, rejecting the government’s statement on minority affairs minister A R Antulay’s demand that the shooting of ATS chief Hemant Karkare should be probed, the chair quickly took up pending legislation which had swelled to nine from the five listed at the start of the day.”
MPs complained that the suplementary list of business was not circulated and legislation was not discussed.
But this sort of thing did not happen just these last few months. In 2006, over 40% of bills were passed in the Lok Sabha with less than an hour of debate.
Regarding actual participation of MPs in debates, the situation is not satisfactory either. In 2006, in the monsoon and winter sessions of Parliament, just 173 MPs in Lok Sabha actually said anything on the floor of Parliament on legislative issues. During these two sessions, almost 65 per cent of MPs said nothing on the floor of the Lok Sabha on legislation.
I am reminded of Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Cyril Northcote Parkinson explains this law with the example of a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant, on a bicycle shed, and on a coffee maker.
The decision regarding the nuclear reactor is so complicated that most of the members cannot understand it. Only two do understand it but one of them not willing to explain his stand against the other, who is more aggressive. So the decision is made without much discussion.
A bicycle shed is something everyone can understand, and a long discussion takes place regarding the material to be used.
The coffee maker being the easiest to comprehend, the most heated discussion takes place regarding this.
In the case of our Lok Sabha, we have seen that many important bills are passed without much discussion.