6 Answers That Explain Everything You Should Know About Private Members’ Bills

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A strong and vocal Parliament is imperative for a functional democracy.  Our founding fathers envisaged Parliament as a place where Members not only debate government policies or support/ oppose laws put forward by Ministers, but also use their wisdom and understanding to suggest laws to deal with pressing issues in the country. Unfortunately, this has not panned out as expected and today Private Members’ Bills have been relegated to the sidelines of the functioning of the Indian Parliament. Read on to find more…

1. What are Private Members’ Bills (PMBs)?

A Member of the Parliament who is not a Minister (i.e. not a member of the Government) is regarded as a Private Member. A Bill introduced in either house of Parliament by any such Member of Parliament is called a Private Members’ Bill; Bills introduced by Ministers are called Government Bills. In India, usually, alternate Friday afternoons during session time (generally between 2 pm and 6 pm) are reserved for discussions on Private Members’ Bills. PMBs are drafted by MPs themselves, or their offices, and are checked for legal consistency by the Parliament Secretariat.

Only 14 PMBs have become law since India’s independence, the last being passed in 1970. More recently, The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 introduced by Mr. Tiruchi Siva was passed in the Rajya Sabha after a gap of 45 years since the passing of the last PMB.

2. What issues do PMBs address and how are they different from Bills introduced by the government?

In terms of the scope and treatment of Bills in Parliament, there is no material difference between a Government Bill and a Private Members’ Bill. PMBs can deal with any issue; they can also be Constitutional Amendment Bills or Money Bills. The only difference is in terms of the process followed outside Parliament. Government Bills are often deliberated upon and approved by the Council of Ministers before being introduced. This is not done for PMBs.

3. How are PMBs introduced in Parliament?

A Private Members’ Bill is introduced in the Parliament by giving prior notice of one month along with a copy of the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ wherein the Private Member explains her/ his rationale for the introduction of the Bill. The final order of introduction is decided by a ballot system to ensure fairness. On the day allotted for such Bills, the Speaker/ Chairman of the Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha calls out to individual Members who then introduce their Bills.

There is also a Parliamentary Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions which allots time to different PMBs and goes through all of them (particularly those seeking to amend the Constitution). It also helps in classifying these Bills based on their nature, urgency, and importance. This classification, in turn, determines which of the introduced Bills are discussed first.

4. What stops PMBs from being passed by the Parliament?

In recent years, governments have tended to view PMBs as an intrusion by non-Ministers into their domain. A perception also seems to have been built that the passage of such a Bill would mean that the government is incompetent and far removed from the needs of the people. As a result, the passage (and even discussion) of PMBs is not encouraged. This has led to an unofficial convention where, if a PMB finds support in the House, the Government usually requests the Private Member to withdraw her/ his Bill with the assurance that the Government will introduce a Bill on the same issue. Most recently, this happened in the case of The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill introduced by Mr. Tiruchi Siva.

Earlier governments often displayed features of bipartisanship, with the Cabinet Ministers themselves holding opposing views. This resulted in healthy debates and respect towards viewpoints held by others and therefore, a greater acceptance of Private Member legislation. Subsequent governments have not upheld this trait as much, and this shows in the way PMBs are treated.

According to PRS Legislative Research, over 370 PMBs were introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha. None were passed; barely 3% were discussed and 97% lapsed without any deliberations.

5. Why Are Private Members’ Bills important?

PMBs were designed to empower MPs to bring attention to issues that were willingly or unwillingly ignored by the party at the helm. In the past, MPs have used PMBs to put forward important issues. For instance, in 1957, Subhadra Joshi, a noted Indian freedom activist, politician and Parliamentarian, introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha to extend financial support to women looking to fight cases of bigamy against their husbands. Mr. Tiruchi Siva’s PMB on the rights of transgender people is another great example. These Bills speak volumes of the significance of PMBs in a democracy.

Various countries across the world effectively empower their Private Members and respect their initiative in the lawmaking process. For instance, in the UK, since 1948, as many as 775 Private Members’ Bills have received Royal Assent and the Canadian Parliament has passed 290 Private Members’ Bills till date.

6. How can more attention be given to PMBs in the Parliament? Will things ever change?

India’s lawmaking process appears to be broken due to a distorted balance of power between the government and other Members of Parliament, including the opposition. Over the years, there have been multiple proposals to improve procedures in Parliament to give PMBs more importance, which include more allocation of time, and more power to other MPs to set the agenda of discussion. However, none of these proposals have gotten the attention they deserve. This is partly due to the way in which rules and procedures are changed in Parliament. The Rules Committee, chaired by the Speaker/ Chairman of the house, is tasked with deciding any changes in functioning. However, this Committee is usually dominated by the ruling party itself. Secondly, there is little or no pressure from the electorate to introduce reform in the functioning of the Parliament. This means that there is no incentive for the Speaker/ Chairman of either House or the government to enact the necessary reforms.

As citizens, it is our collective responsibility to put pressure on the Parliament and the government to reform the existing procedures to recognise the importance of Private Members inside Parliament.


Founded by Harvard and Oxford alumni in 2016, Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC) aims to increase the participation of young people in the democratic process and build their capacity to lead change. YLAC currently runs its interventions across five major cities in India, in addition to undertaking projects in public policy research and advocacy. For more details, visit ylacindia.com

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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