New Delhi, Jan 19:
President Pranab Mukherjee Monday said that while ordinances can be issued to “meet certain exigencies and under compelling circumstances”, the diversity of the country and the magnitude of its problems required that parliament “becomes a more effective platform to build consensus on public policies”.
In his address to higher educational and research institutions on the topic ‘Parliament and Policymaking’ through video conferencing, the president said that parliament stands for the will and aspirations of the people and “it is the platform where through debate and deliberations, this ‘will’ and ‘aspirations’ have to be prioritized and translated into laws, policies and concrete programmes of action.
“When that does not happen, an important element in the functioning of a democracy gets compromised to the disadvantage of the people.”
The president said a legislature is effective “only if it is able to address the differences amongst stakeholders and succeeds in building a consensus for the law to be enacted and enforced. When the parliament fails in discharging its law-making role or enacts law without discussion, it breaches the trust reposed in it by the people. This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies anchored in those laws.”
He said in the past decade, referring to the time when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, “people have been given entitlements for right to information, limited job security in rural areas, education and food through legal guarantees. Each legislative intervention has resulted in a shift in policy towards the objectives laid down in our constitution and in furthering human well-being”.
The president said that parliament’s role in policy articulation, implementation and oversight is critical and it is incumbent on MPs to discuss and undertake adequate scrutiny of all business transacted in the house.
“Unfortunately, the time devoted by the members in parliament has been gradually declining. The first three Lok Sabhas had 677,581 and 578 sittings, respectively. Compared to that, the 13th, 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas had 356, 332 and357sittings, respectively. We all should hope that the 16th Lok Sabha reverses this trend,” he remarked.
On the frequent disruptions of parliament, the president said: “There is a growing tendency to resort to disruption as a means of parliamentary intervention. Dissent is a recognized democratic expression, but disruption leads to loss of time and resources, and paralyzes policy formulation… But, under no circumstances should there be disruption of the proceedings. A noisy minority cannot be allowed to gag a patient majority.”
He said that the framers of the constitution laid down that an ordinance must be replaced by a law not later than six weeks from the re-assembly of the two houses, while article 85 further provides that six months shall not intervene between the last sitting of one session and the first sitting of the next session.
“India’s diversity and the magnitude of its problems require that the parliament becomes a more effective platform to build consensus on public policies and a bulwark of our democratic ideals. The proceedings in parliament must be conducted in a spirit of cooperation, harmony and purpose. The content and quality of debates should be of a high order. Maintenance of discipline and decorum in the House and observance of etiquette and decency are necessary,” he stressed.
He said “parliament must not yield its space for legislating and policymaking to mass mobilization and street protests, for that may not always provide considered solutions to our problems. To retain the trust and faith of the people, the parliament must enact laws to put in place policies that address the concerns and aspirations of the people”.
The president is reported to have asked the government for clarifications before approving the ordinance on land acquisition reforms and also on the government’s urgency to bring out the ordinance. IANS