Day 26 – Q 5.In the light of the changing parliamentary dynamics, the role of the Speaker must be reassessed and recalibrated to make parliamentary proceedings more effective and efficient. Comment.
5. In the light of the changing parliamentary dynamics, the role of the Speaker must be reassessed and recalibrated to make parliamentary proceedings more effective and efficient. Comment.
बदलती संसदीय गतियों के आलोक में, संसदीय कार्यवाहियों को अधिक प्रभावी और कुशल बनाने के लिए अध्यक्ष की भूमिका को पुन: सुनिश्चित और पुनर्गठित किया जाना चाहिए। टिप्पणी करें।
The office of the Speaker is a Constitutional Office. The Speaker is guided by the constitutional provisions and the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. With the parliament seeing several disruptions, the role of speaker becomes vital for the productive functioning of parliament.
Changing parliamentary dynamics:
The majority government and the way of opposition working in the parliament has been a cause of concern for the reasons like
- Committee scrutiny: The bills are not being referred to the parliamentary standing committees. E.g. the latest budget session passed around 30 bills without complete committee scrutiny.
- Ensuring discipline in the House: Falling productivity of parliamentary sessions. It is the speaker responsible maintaining discipline and decorum of Lok Sabha. E.g.
- In 2015, 1/3rd of bills in budget session is passed in 2-3 hrs.
- 2016 winter session was a washout due to disruptions etc.,
- As per Association of democratic reforms, the 15th Lok Sabha has been the most unproductive House since independence owing to the disruptions and lack of discipline among the elected representatives. The Speaker is empowered to initiate disciplinary action against the disrupting MPs, but had failed to do so.
- Misuse of ‘Money Bill’ power: Allegations of bills passed as money bills which is certified by speaker. E.g.
- Aadhar bill passed as money bill which was challenged in supreme court.
- Recently, in the budget session the government had included amendments to the RBI Act in a Finance Bill so as to circumvent the ‘obstructionism’ of Rajya Sabha, where the government is not in a majority.
- Defection: The power to disqualify legislators under 10th schedule and the incidents of defection on several instances.
- Conferring Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha: No Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha was elected in the last 2 terms which is the prerogative of speaker.
- Breach of privilege moved against the prime minister and it is the speaker who is the first level of scrutiny.
Reassessment and Recalibration of speaker role:
Speaker is the epitome of impartiality and regarded to be the true guardian of the traditions of parliamentary democracy. Hence, the speaker elected should be impartial and apolitical.
- The speaker can be barred from future political office or to be fielded as an independent candidate (except for post like president/Vice president).
- The speaker of India remains to be a member of political party even after elected as speaker. This can be reformed as in UK so that after election as the Speaker of Lok Sabha, he/she resign from the political party. This will help the speaker to be objective in deciding the defection cases, privilege motions in the house.
- The speaker can be elected from the opposition party as was experimented in 1996.
- In critical decisions like disqualification for defection, president can be made the determining authority with inputs from the Election Commission than the speaker.
- As in case of Ireland or in UK, it is observed ‘once a speaker is always a speaker’. A speaker is not inducted into the cabinet in future. Offering future rewards for performance of speaker make the position a spoils post and makes it political. The same has to be followed in Indian parliament as well.
- There must be clearly marked role for speaker vis-à-vis the bills that is sent to the committee scrutiny. He should be accountable for any deviations with respect to the same. In the same lines, the role of certifying money bill by the speaker becomes imperative and there is a need for reassessment in this role with an additional level of expert scrutiny.
- The need for reelection skews incentives for the speaker. This can be reformed as in UK where the constituency of the speaker is uncontested.
- If the speaker has worked in an impartial and efficient manner during the tenure of his/her office, he/she should be allowed to continue in the next parliament.
Supreme court in BP Singhal case said that “Governor is the constitutional head of the state. He is not an employee or an agent of the Union government nor a part of any political team”. The same applies to speaker as well. A set of reforms as suggested above will help in smooth, fair and unbiased functioning of the office.