How We Can Resolve Deadlocks And Make Parliament’s Time More Productive

In politics, deadlock or political stalemate refers to a situation when there is difficulty of passing laws in a legislature.

Main causes of legislative deadlocks are:

  1. The votes for and against a proposed law are evenly divided
  2. Two legislative houses, upper house and lower house are controlled by different political parties
  3. Both ruling and opposition parties or one of them is not in the mood of healthy discussion
  4. No party has a filibuster-proof majority

In the Westminster parliamentary system, such deadlocks are common. Around 74 % of the parliament’s time was wasted during the winter session of 1995 because of the uproar over a scam involving telecom minister. In 2001, 41% of the parliament’s time was wasted during the budget session as the opposition demanded setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the stock market scam. On the same issue, 40 % of the parliament’s time was further wasted during the winter session of that year. The winter session of the parliament in 2004 saw only 33% of the time utilized for productive work following the boycott of tainted ministers. The winter session of 2010 is considered one of the most unproductive parliamentary sessions that witnessed only 7.62 productive hours as against available 138 hours. Even during the budget session of that year, frequent disruptions and walkouts over issues like 2G spectrum allocation, phone tapping, and IPL controversy had led to wastage of 115 working hours out of the 385 of both the houses. The government could only get six of the 27 planned bills cleared during that session.

One hour of Lok Sabha costs exchequer Rs 1.5 crore and Rajya Sabha Rs 1.1 crore. Each hour of running legislative assembly or legislative council during sessions costs exchequer Rs. 30 to 40 lakhs approximately. Legislative deadlock not only leads to the loss of public money, but also delays decision making which in turn slows down the development.

Key factor in legislative deadlock is the lack of healthy discussion between ruling and opposition parties. It leads to the lack of opportunity for both the parties to put their viewpoint/opinion on any issue before the legislative house and citizens of India. Creation of healthy environment/platform for discussion is necessary to break deadlocks in legislative houses.

Introduction of “Introductory Hour” in Legislative Proceedings:

To address this issue, an “introductory hour” can be introduced in the proceedings of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, and legislative councils and assemblies. Introductory hour would not be an exact 1 hour. It is just a term and its time period will depend on the discretionary power of chairman of the house.

Introductory hour will not be a part of daily proceedings of legislative houses. Chairman of the house will have the full authority to introduce it at any day and at any time (viz. at the beginning of sitting or after question hour or after zero hour) during the sitting by analyzing the deadlock situation. Chairman will him/herself act as an proposer during the introductory hour.

Chairman of the house shall give 24-48 hours prior notice to the house highlighting the instructions of conducting the introductory hour. Chairman would ask the viewpoints/opinions/demands of ruling and opposition parties on the deadlock-issue/s in written. The viewpoints submitted to the chairman should be concise.

While conducting the introductory hour, the written viewpoints of ruling and opposition parties will be put before the house by the chairman (chairman will him/herself read the written viewpoints/opinions/demands). Introductory hour shall be introduced only when there is a situation of legislative deadlock.

Introductory hour will be helpful to make healthy environment for discussion. It will provide an equal opportunity for ruling and opposition parties to put their viewpoints before the legislative house and citizens of India. It will help to resolve deadlocks and accelerate legislative decisions.

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