[Editorial] The need for Indian Legislative Service

Quick Revision Mind map

Context

Most of the Secretary-General of the upper house were from civil/other services

  • P.P.K. Ramacharyulu was the first-ever Rajya Sabha secretariat staff who rose to become the Secretary-General of the Upper House.
  • Since the first Parliament in 1952, 11 Secretaries-General had served in the Rajya Sabha before Ramacharyulu.
  • Except for some of the lateral entry staff, who could become Secretaries-General, all the others were parachuted from the civil services or other services from time to time.
  • It was both a well-deserving signal for long-serving staff of the Parliament secretariat and course correction to restore the legitimacy of their long-time demand.
  • Since 1993, all the Secretaries-General of the Rajya Sabha were from the civil service till the appointment of Ramacharyulu as the 12th Secretary-General.
  • However, it was a fleeting gesture — Ramacharyulu was replaced, bizarrely, by a former bureaucrat, P.C. Mody, in less than three months. (It is said that the Chairman had given in to political pressures.)
  • The appointment of P.C. Mody, a retired IRS officer as the 13th Secretary-General in the Upper House was for the first time.

What the editorial is about?

  • The need for a common service that can help strengthen the many legislative bodies in India.

The case of Lok Sabha

  • Unlike the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha had nine of its staff (including the lateral-entry officers) raised to become Secretaries-General to date.

The Secretary-General: Perks and Privileges

  • The Secretary-General, with the rank equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary, is the third most key functionary of the Rajya Sabha after the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman.
  • The Secretary-General also enjoys certain privileges such as freedom from arrest, immunity from criminal proceedings, and any obstruction and breach of their rights would amount to contempt of the House.

What is expected out of the Secretary-General?

  • The Secretaries-General of both the Houses are mandated with many parliamentary and administrative responsibilities.
  • One of the prerequisites that demand the post of the Secretary-General is unfailing knowledge and vast experience of parliamentary procedures, practices and precedents.

Why a bar (is needed) for the civil servants?

The lack of expertise

  • Most of the civil servants lack precisely this aspect of expertise.

Article 98 of Indian Constitution: Separate Secretariat & Independence

  • Article 98 of the Constitution provides the scope of separate secretariats for the two Houses of Parliament.
  • A separate secretariat marks a feature of a functioning parliamentary democracy.

Independent of the executive

  • The principle, hence, laid in Article 98 is that the secretariats should be independent of the executive government.

Conflict of interest

  • Serving civil servants or those who are retired come with long-held baggage and the clout of their past careers.
  • When civil servants are hired to the post of Secretary-General, this not only dishonours the purpose of ensuring the independence of the Secretariat but also leads to a conflict of interests.

Separation of power

  • It breaches the principle of separation of power.
  • The officials mandated with exercising one area of power may not expect to exercise the others.

Why Indian Legislative Service is the way forward?

The innumerable legislative bodies of India

  • There are thousands of legislative bodies in India, ranging from the panchayat, block panchayat, Zila Parishad, municipal corporations to State legislatures and Union Parliament at the national level.

Common public recruiting and training agency

  • Despite these mammoth law-making bodies, they lack their own common public recruiting and training agency at the national level.
  • Ensuring competent and robust legislative institutions demands having qualified and well-trained staff in place.

The requirement of a modern government

  • The growth of modern government and expansion of governmental activities require a matching development and laborious legislative exercise.

Thus, creating a common all-India service cadre — an Indian Legislative Service — is a must.

Some global practices

  • In the United Kingdom, the Clerk of the House of Commons has always been appointed from the legislative staff pool created to serve Parliament.

It is high time that India adapts and adopts such democratic institutional practices.

What can be done to have an all-India Legislative service?

  • The Rajya Sabha can, under Article 312, pass a resolution to this effect, in the national interest, to create an all-India service common to both the Union and the States, and enables Parliament to create such a service by law.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. A common service can build a combined and experienced legislative staff cadre, enabling them to serve from across local bodies to Union Parliament. Substantiate. (250 Words, 15 Marks)
Referred Sources

The Hindu

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