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Case for decorum in dissent

In a critique of the state of affairs of the lawmaking process, the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana lamented that the lack of debates in Parliament was leading to a situation where legislations were riddled with gaps and ambiguity.

Case for decorum in dissent
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana


The intent behind framing of laws remained nebulous, said Ramana, while highlighting how elaborate discussions undertaken during the lawmaking process helped reduce litigation when courts interpret legislations.

His comments came on the back of both Houses of Parliament being adjourned sine die, two days prior to schedule last week. The Monsoon Session faced interruption from members of the Opposition who demanded explanations on many issues, including the Pegasus scandal and the farm laws. The outbursts brought Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, chairman of the Rajya Sabha to tears as he decried the new lows on display during the discussion hour.

Opposition members were seen climbing atop chairs and flinging official files at the Chair, and a few MPs squatted on the tables of the front row seats. The behaviour of those entrusted with safeguarding India’s interests calls into question our ideas of governance. The legislative body Parliament, which along with the executive, the judiciary and the media, forms the four pillars of democracy, is an entity that has total sovereignty and reigns above other institutions. And undoubtedly, the right to disagree is a crucial element to any such ecosystem. Dissent sans decorum is a recipe for anarchy and we can do without it. While Rajya Sabha TV did not air visuals of the pandemonium, members had captured the footage on cellphones, which went viral. But it might be foolhardy to assume that the events are isolated instances of disobedience. As per political observers, the unruliness was precipitated by the ruling party’s blatant misuse of the majority in the House to roughshod over any criticism. The Centre has refused to address pertinent issues plaguing India and its citizens for many months now. Take for instance, the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Bill, 2021, which was passed in under 20 minutes of discussion in the evening. Similarly, the Rajya Sabha had also taken up the National Commission for Homoeopathy (Amendment) Bill, 2021, as well as the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which were passed by the Lok Sabha on August 10. The discussions regarding the Bills as well as their passing were concluded in under 10 minutes.

TMC’s Derek O’Brien noted that as many as 35 Bills were passed by the two Houses collectively, even as Congress MP Jairam Ramesh raised objections to the dilution of his notice on the farm laws. It might seem like the Opposition has proved a point and embarrassed the government by disrupting the proceedings. The Lok Sabha functioned for just about 21 hours and 14 minutes during the Monsoon Session while the time stipulated for the same was 96 hours. To top it off, the productivity was about 22 per cent. The House went on to introduce 13 Bills and passed 20, while the Rajya Sabha passed 19 Bills and was operational for 17 hours instead of the stipulated 97 hours.

But the common man on the street is the one to bear the brunt of such disruptions. Having paid for the elections, the least we can expect are solutions to issues on which our lives depend - state surveillance of citizens, freedom of the press, the loss of lives from the pandemic, the hike in fuel prices, a crippled education system, China’s advances on the LAC and the unrest in northeast Indian states. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has spoken about reviewing the existing parliamentary rules and initiating action against habitual offenders and unruly parliamentarians. It must be reiterated that those in power cannot chug along on the brute strength of majority and the meekness of the minority or the Opposition. To be heard, one needs to inculcate the patience to listen.

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