Private Members’ Bills: An Underutilised And Ignored Instrument Of Indian Polity

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As per a PRS Legislative Research report, no private members’ bills has been passed by the Parliament since 1970. Of the 328 odd private members’ bills introduced in the 14th Lok Sabha, only 4% were discussed; 96% were lapsed without even a single debate in the House.

In the 15th Lok Sabha, nearly 600 private member bills were introduced, but not even 5% were discussed. The story is no different in the current 17th Lok Sabha. This, I believe, is a matter of serious concern and unhealthy practice for a parliamentary system. The notion of deliberation in our democracy has weakened.

In 1956 alone, 6 private member bills were passed. A total of 14 bills were passed between 1950 and 1970. Since 1970, not even a single one has.

It is hard to digest that among thousands of bills introduced, not even a single bill between 1970 and 2017 made sense and was considered by the house. One thing is clear from these statistics that overall productivity of the Indian polity has decreased.

Not only in the context of private members bill, but productivity in general is on a decline. A total of 331 bills were passed in the 1st Lok Sabha which came down to 149 bills in the 15th Lok Sabha. Working hours were wasted in unnecessary debates!

The ignorance of bills introduced by private members is a result of Indian politics declining. Deliberation is the root of our democracy and ignoring bills is the ignorance of new ideas. The thing to notice here is that this ignorance is not because of a rivalry between the ruling party and the opposition.

The problem lies in the fact that since this instrument is optional in nature, legislature in general and executive in particular take it too lightly, regardless of who introduces the bill.

For instance, in 2014, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by a private member. It was initially opposed by every party in the house. Raising a crucial issue which was untouched by the legislature and putting forward a bill must be appreciated in a parliamentary system. The members in Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, asked the person to withdraw the bill instead of proposing required changes.

However, the bill was, later, passed by the house unanimously.

In the current 17th Lok Sabha, a number of bills have been introduced by private members including the National Commission for Welfare of Farmers Bill introduced by Kirodi Lal Meena. It is aimed at establishing a National Commission for Farmers Welfare.Certainly, this is not something which should be ignored considering the ongoing agricultural crisis.

The Protection of Medical and Health Service Professionals from Assault, Criminal Force and Intimidation Bill by Gautam Gambhir is another. One more important piece of legislation is the Use of Mobile Electronic Devices by Pedestrians on Road (Regulation) Bill introduced by Bhartruhari Mahtab, as well as the Fake News (Prohibition) Bill brought by Rama Devi.

Clearly, these bills are not something which can be rejected outright. It certainly requires a detailed discussion by the parliamentarians as they are representatives of people and reflect general will of the society.

However, not all private member bills require consideration of the house as they don’t hold much significance. For instance, a bill which is aimed to amend Article 1 from “India, that is Bharat” to “Bharat, that is Hindustan” must be ignored completely.

Such bills are usually introduced to gain popularity or to achieve personal political ambitions. In the current Lok Sabha, various bills on the same issue have been introduced which only results in wastage of time and resources of the house.

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