Creating a new chapter in parliamentary behaviour

Disruptive behaviour is on the rise in India’s Parliament, raising concerns about diminishing decorum and public perception, as well as the impact on government.

The main idea

  • With increasing disruptive behaviour during special sessions, India’s Parliament is facing a decorum crisis, sparking fears of oncoming turmoil. Instead of meaningful debate, lawmakers from diverse parties resort to disturbance. It is past time to address this issue and draw inspiration from the British parliamentary model, which inspired our nation’s leaders in the past.

Initial Pride in the Parliamentary System

  • The Westminster model of the United Kingdom: In the early years after India’s independence, Indian politicians took great satisfaction in the parliamentary system they had chosen. This system was modelled after the Westminster system in the United Kingdom.
  • Longing for Denied Benefits: India’s nationalists were adamant about experiencing the democracy they had been denied for so long under British colonial authority. They believed that adopting the British parliamentary system was a crucial step towards obtaining democratic rule.
  • Attlee’s Proposal: When future British Prime Minister Clement Attlee visited India as part of a constitutional committee, he advocated for a presidential system over a parliamentary one. This proposition, however, was met with astonishment and dismay by his Indian counterparts, who were staunch supporters of the parliamentary system.
  • Admiration for British Parliamentary Traditions: Many of India’s first-generation lawmakers were educated in England and admired British parliamentary traditions. They discovered authenticity by imitating these practises.
  • Continuation of British Practises: India’s parliamentary practises remained largely unchanged from those of the United Kingdom. For example, Indian MPs continue to pound their desks in approval, a practise similar to that of the British Parliament. When it comes to voting on bills, the affirmative vote is usually aye rather than yes, however hanh is gaining favour on some Treasury benches.
  • An Anglophile Communist MP, Professor Hirendranath Mukherjee, proudly recounted how a visiting British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, had remarked that the Indian Parliament was in every respect similar to the British one. This comment was regarded as a compliment, even by a Communist, and it emphasised the authenticity with which India had adopted British parliamentary traditions.

Breaking with British parliamentary norms and being more tolerant of disturbance

  • Decades of Change: Significant changes have happened in the functioning of India’s parliamentary system in the seven and a half decades since independence.
  • Boisterous Behaviour: India’s innate proclivity for boisterousness and assertiveness has resurfaced in its legislative proceedings. This divergence from the British parliamentary system’s etiquette and traditions is significant.
  • Disruptions in State Legislatures: Some state legislatures have already witnessed wild events, such as furniture being overturned, microphones being ripped out, and members throwing slippers. During scuffles among politicians at these assemblies, fisticuffs and torn clothing have also been reported.
  • Violations of the Code of Conduct: In the national legislature, the code of conduct, which is given to all newly elected MPs, is routinely broken. This includes things like speaking out of turn, shouting slogans, carrying placards, and marching into the house’s well.
  • Pepper Spray Incident: The incident escalated when a protesting MP used pepper spray inside the parliamentary chamber. Some MPs were hospitalised as a result of this incident, which caused pain for the then-Speaker.
  • Rule-Breaking Impunity: Lawmakers have demonstrated a stunning amount of impunity in flouting the rules they were elected to maintain. Despite cases of MPs racing up to the presiding officer’s desk, yanking his microphone and smashing up his papers, they are frequently quietly reinstated after a few months, accompanied by muted apologies.

Concerns about disruptive behaviour in India’s Parliament and the ramifications

  • Meaningful Debate Obstruction: Disruptive behaviour obstructs genuine debate on vital subjects, preventing important legislation from being addressed and passed.
  • Weakening of Governance: Prolonged interruptions limit the government’s ability to implement policies and satisfy population demands, resulting in weakened governance.
  • Disruptive behaviour has resulted in a considerable loss of parliamentary decorum and established standards of conduct.
  • Disruptions have contributed to an unfavourable public view of the Parliament, which may lead to dissatisfaction with the democratic process.
  • Legislative Productivity Loss: Due to frequent disruptions, considerable legislative time and productivity have been lost.
  • Disruptive behaviour endangers India’s democratic system by impeding the functioning of democratic institutions and undermining their credibility.
  • Accountability has declined as a result of tolerance for disruptive behaviour among public officials.
  • British parliamentary techniques that the Indian legislature must learn and apply

Opposition Day:

  • In the British parliamentary system, Opposition Day permits opposition parties to choose specific policy topics or issues to debate on the House floor.
  • This practise gives a defined venue for the opposition to voice their opinions, criticise government actions, and provide alternatives.
  • It encourages constructive debate on issues of political importance and requires the government to answer issues brought by the opposition.

Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs):

  • PMQs are an important and closely followed parliamentary event in the United Kingdom.
  • MPs have the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on a variety of matters during PMQs.
  • This practise improves the government’s transparency, accountability, and scrutiny of its acts and choices.
  • It is known for heated debates and is an important part of the British parliamentary system’s heritage of executive accountability.

What else is there?

  • The Speaker’s Role: The Speaker should review the practise of grouping proposed modifications to bills for voice votes without discussion and of frequently rejecting adjournment motions.

@the end

The Indian Parliament is at a crossroads, with its reputation and functionality under threat as a result of ongoing interruptions. India may revitalise its democratic institutions and safeguard the purity of its democracy by adopting some of the practises of the British parliamentary system and fostering a more inclusive and accountable parliamentary culture. It is critical for the administration and the opposition to work together on these fundamental issues in order to preserve the integrity of Parliament and the nation’s democracy.

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