A weekly column on the sessions of parliament.
The monsoon session of parliament concluded on Friday (August 11). The session saw the election of Ram Nath Kovind as the president of India and M. Venkaiah Naidu as the vice president and chairman of Rajya Sabha.
Lok Sabha’s productivity was 67%; Rajya Sabha’s productivity was 72%
Lok Sabha worked for 67% of the scheduled working hours and Rajya Sabha worked for 72%. During the session, time was lost due to disruptions and scheduled business could not be taken up. Parliament passed 11 Bills in total. These included a Bill seeking to address rising loan defaults and another setting up Indian Institutes of Information Technology under a public-private partnership model.
While the Lok Sabha spent more time debating these Bills, Rajya Sabha undertook discussions on various topics including India’s foreign policy, recent floods in the country and incidents of mob violence and lynching.
Three questions answered orally in Lok Sabha per day; two in Rajya Sabha
During Question Hour, MPs may pose questions to ministers to hold the government accountable for its laws and policies. During the session, Question Hour in Lok Sabha functioned for 64% of the scheduled time, which is lower than the average for the 16th Lok Sabha until this session (79%). The lower productivity of the Question Hour can be attributed to the disruptions during the session on issues concerning demonetisation and the safety of women. As a result, a lesser number of questions could be answered orally.
In the Rajya Sabha, Question Hour functioned for 43% of the time, which is above the average for the House since 2014 (47%). On average, in a day, three questions were answered orally in the Lok Sabha and two questions in the Rajya Sabha.
More Bills being introduced and passed in the same session; less referred to committees
In the current session, 40% of the Bills introduced were passed in at least one House. More bills were introduced and passed within the same session in comparison to the 15th Lok Sabha.
Further, fewer Bills were referred to parliamentary standing committees for scrutiny. A lower percentage of Bills have been referred to committees in the current Lok Sabha (27%), as compared to the 15th Lok Sabha (71%) and the 14th Lok Sabha (60%). These committees examine Bills in detail and open up the process to public participation by engaging with experts and stakeholders.
During the session, only the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 was introduced and referred to a joint committee of parliament. However, before the reference, several members raised objections to the formation of a joint committee to examine the Bill. Members argued that the Bill should be examined by the Department Related Standing Committee on Finance which includes members from across political parties, from both houses. It was also pointed out that with the repeated formation of joint committees to examine Bills, the system of Department Related Standing Committees was being subverted and weakened.
Another trend around Bill-related deliberation is that the current Lok Sabha has discussed Bills for a longer period than the 15th Lok Sabha. However, it is interesting to note that in the Rajya Sabha, the proportion of Bills being discussed for less than 30 minutes has increased.
Higher number of ordinances issued annually during 16th Lok Sabha
In the monsoon session, four Bills were introduced and passed in parliament to replace ordinances. These Bills were related to the goods and services tax and the banking sector. Ordinances allow the government to make temporary laws when parliament is not in session.
In the three years of the current Lok Sabha, 28 ordinances have been issued – that’s nine per year on average. This is higher than previous Lok Sabhas.
Discussions in parliament
This session saw eight discussions in total being taken up in both Houses. These included debates on topics like the agrarian crisis, floods and the incidents of lynching and atrocities against minorities and Dalits in the country. A special discussion was also held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement.
Vatsal Khullar and Nivedita Rao are analysts at PRS Legislative Research.