Taking up where they left off at the last session of Parliament, MPs seem intent on honouring the House more in breach than in observance with adjournments dominating the first two days of the Winter Session. An ambitious agenda awaits Parliamentarians with 25 bills scheduled for consideration and passing and ten new bills listed for introduction.
The rather memorable Winter Session last year saw both Houses of Parliament seized by the Lokpal Bill, under pressure by the public movement led by Anna Hazare to pass the anti-corruption legislation.
The Lokpal Bill was discussed for 6 hours 42 Minutes in Lok Sabha before it was passed and the Rajya Sabha spent another 7 hours debating the Bill, according to PRS Legislative, an independent research group. A year later Anna Hazare and his new band of anti-corruption campaigners look set to have their cause handed to them on a platter, with disruptions dominating the first two days of Parliament Session.
The Lokpal and Lokayukt Bill, 2011, piloted by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, was first introduced in the Monsoon Session last year, withdrawn and reintroduced with key amendments in the following Winter Session. Passed by the Lok Sabha on December 27, the Bill was referred to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee which on Friday (Nov 23) tabled its report.
During the Monsoon Session which was rocked by the CAG’s coal block report, only four of the 30 bills on agenda were passed. As per PRS Legislative, of the 15 new Bills that were listed for introduction, only six were introduced. Its research shows that “almost no time was spent on discussing Bills. The Lok Sabha passed three Bills in under five minutes.”
Setting new records for the speed with which bill are passed, the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, which is up for consideration in the current Session, was passed “in 16 minutes without any discussion.” (Read full report here)
In another damning observation PRS states that in the 15th Lok Sabha, Parliament has passed an average of nine Bills per session and that at the end of the Monsoon session, 102 Bills were pending before Parliament.
In response to a recent RTI query, the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha secretariats revealed that during the Monsoon Session, the two Houses of Parliament functioned for only 54 hours out of 206 hours. While the Lok Sabha, the RTI revealed, lost 77.51 hours as a result of interruption and adjournment, Rajya Sabha lost 63.3 hours.
On the current session’s agenda, are two key Higher Education reform Bills -- the Education Tribunals Bill, 2010, which was passed by the Lok Sabha as far back as August 2010, and is pending in the Rajya Sabha and the The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010.
Awaiting passage in the Rajya Sabha is a crucial bill, the first such legislation that seeks to protect working women against sexual harassment. The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, which after much debate was amended to include domestic workers, provides for the setting up of an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ at the work place and a ‘Local Complaints Committee’ at the district level.
In the current atmosphere of disclosures, an anti-corruption bill the Parliament is sitting on is the Whistleblower’s Protection Bill, 2010, which seeks to protect those making disclosures against corruption or abuse of power by a government servant. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on the same day the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill was passed. It remains pending in the Rajya Sabha.