The Monsoon session of Parliament ended four days ahead of schedule, after continued disruptions over issues like price rise, suspension of 27 MPs, the Enforcement Directorate's action against some of the opposition leaders etc.
This is the seventh consecutive time the parliament session has been cut short.
Such state of affairs is fundamentally detrimental to democracy because the basic job of Parliament is to give voice to people, debate policies and legislate through proposed bills.
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die and saw the passage of seven and five bills, respectively, during the monsoon session which was to end on August 12.
While Lok Sabha saw a total of 16 sittings that lasted for 44 hours and 29 minutes, the upper house met for 38 hours with as many as 47 hours lost due to disruption.
The “disrupt-and-devour-attention” drama during much of the monsoon session is a matter of grave concern as it impacts the ability of Parliament to transact business and do serious deliberation over significant issues of public importance.
Reasons for declining parliamentary productivity
Lost fervor (passion): If parliamentarian comes prepared to the House and disruption occurs too often, their enthusiasm evaporates which results in popular and poor intervention than a substantive one.
For instance, humour, poetry, some emotional appeal and few philosophical quotations which certainly impacts the quality of debates negatively.
Feigned (insincere) efforts: Many opposition members argue vehemently to send the bill to relevant standing committee for better scrutiny.
However the percentage of members attending the meetings of these committees- their duration, quality of deliberations and the outcomes donot seem to be a sincere effort.
Less emphasis on quality debate: Although disruptions have become common, they continue to get reported without fail and disruptors often bask in the media limelight. As against this, those who make a reasonably good speech- well-argued and supported by statistics, examples or case studies rarely get adequate attention which too hampers the interest of parliamentarians.
Role of media: Moreover owing to depleting interest of readers, the space allocated for parliamentary proceedings in both, print and electronic media is shrinking fast.
For instance, inadequate coverage of Question Hour or Zero Hour compared to the past.
Debates on bills are also subject to brief and sketchy reporting.
Presiding officers emulating (imitating) courts of law: The presiding officers can conduct in-camera proceedings in their chambers to insulate at least the Zero Hour and Question Hour from getting disrupted.
While the House remains force-adjourned, presiding officers can also order in-camera hearing of questions of MPs and replies of ministers.
Fixed Schedule: The parliamentary schedule is can be also be revised as follows:
A calendar of sittings could be announced at the beginning of each year for limited flexibility.
The rules should be amended to ensure that the House is summoned if a significant minority (say 25% or 33%) of members gives a written notice.
Incorporate best practices (UK Model): The British Parliament allocates 20 days a year when the agenda is decided by the opposition. The PM is bound by a constitutional convention to respond to questions directly posed to him by MPs.
Drafting new Index: Parliamentary disruption index should be created as a measure to monitor disruptions in legislatures and check indiscipline. It would also lead to availability of more time for debate and discussion on issues before the House.