Expressing concern over the decline in the number of days of Parliament’s functioning, Rajya Sabha members today sought extending the sittings to a minimum of 120 days a year, along with the working hours by starting the proceedings an hour early at 10 AM.
Some members expressed concern over the frequent adjournments and disruptions and said the loss of working hours should be compensated either by adding more hours that day or by working on additional days during a session.
The members expressed their opinion during a debate on a private member’s legislation brought by Shiromani Akali Dal member Naresh Gujral.
The Parliament (Enhancement of Productivity) Bill 2017, among other things, seeks to establish an effective system to prevent and address the decline in productivity of Parliament due to disrupts by an appropriate legal framework.
During the debate, some members also opined that the salary and allowances of members who disrupt proceedings, should be deducted on that particular day.
Gujral, while moving the bill for consideration and passage, said “we have seen that over the years, now Parliament hardly meets 70 days in a year.
“Earlier, when Rajya Sabha started to meet in 1952 after independence, Parliament would meet for over 100 days and gradually with period of time, successive governments have made sure that the duration of the sessions gets reduced.”
He said the bills are piled up and public which spends lots of money to run this institution, face inconvenience.
“We are not meeting the way we should be. Members are disrupting Parliament and one feature of my bill is that if the proceedings are disrupted, then automatically the number of hours lost in disruption should get added to the session,” he said, adding that it would made the government more accountable.
In western democracies, Parliament meet almost six months a year, Gujaral said, adding that Parliament here should meet at least four to five months in a year.
“At least, we should make sure that it should not be less than 120 days,” he said, adding that small parties, which have issues to raise, suffer as they do not get enough time.
Supporting the bill, Congress member Jairam Ramesh said the Rajya Sabha must have a system of a special session of 15 days, in which all parties should discuss important national issue.
In the 1950s, Parliament used to meet over 125 days, which has started declining progressively. “Over the last decades, the average is less than 70 days. One of the reasons for the decline is that whoever is in government, would like to minimise the time taken by Parliament,” Ramesh said.
Another reason for the decline was the system of Standing Committees, which was instituted in 1993. “Even if you add the time of standing committee and the House, the average is somewhere close to 90 days which is much lower than in the 1950s and 1960s,” the Congress leader said.
“If the Lok Sabha is not able to meet 100 days, the Rajya Sabha should meet for 100 days,” Ramesh said, adding that a Lok Sabha MP has to cater his constituency and may not be able to attend 100 days but Rajya Sabha members have no such compulsions.
“We must have a special session of 15 days a year in which no government business is transacted, but the views raised by various parties, big and small, is taken up for discussion,” he said.
Suggesting extension of the working hours of Parliament, Ramesh said “why should we start at 11 AM? Around the world, Parliament sitting starts at 9:30 or 10 AM. When the half of the day is over, we come to Parliament,” he said suggesting that Rajya Sabha members should start at 10 AM.