Recent desertions and defections in the Puducherry assembly have yet again highlighted the absurdity of the anti-defection law. Many MLAs from the treasury benches resigned, decreasing the numbers needed for a no-confidence motion to succeed in the Puducherry Assembly. This practice has also been seen recently in other states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Thus an MP (or MLA) has absolutely zero freedom to vote their judgement on any issue. They have to blindly follow what the party directs them to do so. This provision goes against the concept of representative democracy.
Democracy thrives only if elected representatives come under the scrutiny of the electors. India has come a long way since its independence in 1947 to become one among the world’s largest democracies. Yet, there persist several lacunae that prevent Indian democracy from realizing the full potential. The consequence of this is the prevalence of draconian laws, undemocratic policies etc. To address these issues, people must be empowered by enabling them to exercise their rights to question and reject politicians indulging in questionable activities. In this regard, the experts recommend electoral reforms that ensure the right to recall and right to reject to the people of India.
Elections are the life and blood of modern democracies. The health and vitality of parliamentary democracy are sustained by ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections where the verdict of the people finds full expression. Free and fair elections are important in ensuring the government authority derives power from the will of the people. It is expected that electoral reforms will contribute to better participation of the citizens in electoral practices, reduce corruption and strengthen democracy in India. As a foundation for the electoral reforms, recently, the Prime Minister’s Office had held a meeting with representatives of the Election Commission and the Law Ministry to discuss the possibility of having a common electoral roll for elections to the Panchayat, municipality, state assembly and the Lok Sabha.
The notion of parliament as a mechanism to hold the government accountable has been questioned due to its recent failure in doing so. While the pandemic proved to be a hindrance to its normal working, the parliament when it worked failed to hold the executive accountable on many accounts. The saddest example of it is the passing of farm bills in the parliament which threw most of the parliamentary procedures out of the window. Let’s discuss the notion of parliamentary oversight and its importance in a parliamentary democracy like India in this article.
Electing a government to govern the nation/states for the next five years by casting vote in a polling booth is an onerous responsibility on the shoulders of every voter in a democratic country. Unfortunately, even after seven decades of independence and numerous elections held in the country so far, despite extensive appeals by the Election Commission, government and other celebrities, large number of voters still perceive, voting is an optional luxury enjoying low priority. According to the 255th Law Commission Report, “Electoral right” of the voter includes the right to “vote or refrain from voting at an election.” The Representation of People Act, 1951 – the law that governs elections also talks of “right to vote rather than a duty to vote”. Last year, in the monsoon session of parliament, Lok Sabha members expressed diverse views on a private member’s bill seeking compulsory voting.
Recently, Parliament has passed the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2020 (FCRA) in its monsoon session which would greatly tighten and restrict the existing Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Though The bill is receiving backslash from the NGOs and the Opposition with regards to the encroachment of NGOs financial administration, it has been passed with a view of increasing transparency in the working of an organization receiving foreign funds.
The Monsoon session of Parliament, which got delayed by several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic has begun recently. Similar to the last many sessions, Parliamentary disruptions once again became the common feature of Indian Parliamentary proceedings. A no-confidence motion against the Deputy Chairman is a first in Parliament and it is also an event which stood out in this Monsoon session of the Parliament. Though the Monsoon Session of Parliament began with the election for the post of deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha still lacks a deputy speaker. The post has been vacant for the last 456 days and is a record.
The recent decision to abandon “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, has evoked serious concerns about the democratic without the functioning of the institution. Question Hour isn’t just an open door for the members to bring up issues and raise questions, yet it is a parliamentary gadget principally implied for exercising legislative control over executive actions. The decision has been made because of the pandemic and a truncated Monsoon Session. Parliament has also curtailed the Zero Hour.
There have been several cases of the President disqualifying MLAs or the court judgments striking down the appointments of MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. In this context, we’ll discuss the law on holding an ‘office of profit’ and the associated issues.