“Are we delivering pizza or passing legislation? Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’brien asked on July 30 taking a dig at the speed with which bills were being passed in the Budget session of Parliament. A day earlier, 17 parties wrote a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu expressing concern over “hurriedly” passing the bills. The lawmakers termed it a departure from the established practice and healthy traditions of enacting legislations. The official figures suggest passage of legislations is indeed happening at a fast pace.
In his concluding remarks last Wednesday, Naidu had said that the Upper House passed 32 bills in the Budget session, the best record in last 17 years and fifth best in 41 years. In its 37 sittings, the Lok Sabha passed 35 bills with the Speaker Om Birla terming it the best session since 1952. While the performance of the Parliament is indeed commendable, the speed at which the two Houses cleared the bills has brought the “high productivity” under question. Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha member K.T.S. Tulsi said that passing legislation quickly was not good. Referring to the passing of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill and abrogation of Article 370, he said that there would be a huge loss of face if a provision is struck down by the court.“Passing legislation is not fast food,” Tulsi said.
A senior bureaucrat, who did not wish to be named, said the public perception is that most of the time is wasted in Parliament and scrutiny by House panels generally does not add much value.“Passing of more bills, therefore, adds to the popularity of the government. This is the reason opposition parties, beyond a point, do not go for disrupting the House for referring the bills to Select Committee or Standing Committee,” he said. To drive home the point that Parliamentary scrutiny of Bills has been coming down, the opposition parties referred to a research note which said that only 26 per cent of the Bills were scrutinised in the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) compared to 71 per cent in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14). Some political analysts have also expressed their reservations over passing legislations without much deliberation in Parliament as government has the numbers in the Lok Sabha and can “manipulate” the numbers in Rajya Sabha.
Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University said that democracy is not run by numbers but institutions and hence the views of everyone, especially those in minority, should be taken before passing a Bill.“In a democracy, deliberations are very important. In Parliament, there are processes for it. There is the institution of Select Committee precisely for this, to look at bills from all angles. If you rush all the bills in this manner it means you are bulldozing your way and you do not want to take into account different opinions,” he said.Among various bills, the government managed to pass the RTI amendment Bill, UAPA, Triple Talaq Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill even as opposition members objected to various provisions and wanted them to be referred to a Select Committee.