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Need to evolve a new normal for parliamentary institutions: VP Naidu

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 29, 2019  | 19:51 IST

(Eds: Adds quotes, details) New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday expressed concern over poor attendance of lawmakers, declining quality of debates and frequent disruptions in legislatures, and asserted there was a need to evolve a "new normal" for the parliamentary institutions. Delivering the first Arun Jaitley Memorial Lecture here instituted by the Delhi University, he also said the "idea of simultaneous elections needs to be seriously considered and discussed by all stakeholders". In his speech, he praised the Constitution and the parliamentary system and said despite naysayers casting doubt over its efficacy in the initial days, it has strengthened the democracy of the country in the last nearly seven decades. The vice president also referred to the amendments being made in the Constitution as and when required, and cited the recent abrogation of sections of Article 370 that gave special powers to Jammu and Kashmir. "Irrespective of serious differences among the members of ruling and opposition parties over multiple issues, both houses discussed, deliberated in favour of abrogation of (sections of) Article 370," he said. Naidu said the parliamentary system can be strengthened only if its roots, the democratic values, are strong. In his address, he also pitched for instituting a "special bench" to ensure time-bound adjudication on criminal cases against politicians fighting elections. "Politicians having criminal cases fight elections years after years. There's need for a system, a special bench to expedite those pending cases," Naidu said. In an over 50-minute speech, the vice president touched upon several aspects of parliamentary democracy and expressed concern over the functioning of parliamentary institutions in the country, even as he suggested a broad framework of reforms for further strengthening the parliamentary institutions to enhance the trust of the people in them. "Based on the experience of the last 67 years of our parliamentary democracy, we need to evolve a new normal for our parliamentary institutions so that our nation can make up for the lost time and opportunities," he said. Political parties need to evolve a "roster system" for ensuring attendance of at least 50 per cent of their members in the legislatures all through the proceedings of the House every day to address the issue of lack of quorum, Naidu said. "Legislature parties should ensure that the new entrants and back benchers are given adequate opportunities to participate in the debates instead of fielding only a select and established few," he added. The vice president also said that representation of women in legislatures needs to be raised, which at present is only about 13 per cent. "A minimum number of sittings for both Parliament and state legislatures per year to be appropriately should be prescribed and compliance be ensured. Lawmakers should abide by the rules of the House and political parties should take responsibility in this regard by evolving and enforcing a code of conduct," Naidu suggested. He lamented the reduced sittings in Parliament and said the 16th Lok Sabha held 331 sittings during the five years, while the Rajya Sabha sat for 329 days in the same period. "The declining number of sittings of Parliament from over 100 per year in the 50s and 60s to 60-70 days per year later has been sought to be addressed with the introduction of department-related standing committees in 1993," he said. "However, the pitfalls of Parliament have slowly come to mark the functioning of the department-related standing committees in the form of poor attendance, lack of specialisation, frequent committee hopping, etc. which need to be addressed," he said. Naidu said he would discuss with the Lok Sabha speaker the measures needed for effective functioning of these committees with longer tenure instead of the present one year, promoting specialisation by nominating the members for a longer period. Parliamentary business is a complicated task and law making demands competence. Members of Parliament are supposed to discharge their responsibilities with dignity, diligence and discipline, he added. "Frequent disruptions, points of order without a point, adjournment motions and interruptions betrays political immaturity, exhibitionism, excessive fondness for the limelight and inadequate appreciation of the need to utilise the opportunity of serving the public interest," the vice president said. With regard to disruptions, Rajya Sabha has lost 40 per cent of the available time of the House during 2014-2019, while the 16th Lok Sabha in the same period lost 16 per cent of the time, he rued. Among other suggestions, he said both pre and post-legislative impact assessment should be ensured for quality and informed law making. The vice president said functioning of the anti-defection law needs to be reviewed, besides stipulating specific time-frame for deciding on defection matters by the presiding officers of legislatures. Arun Jaitley, who died here in August, was a proud alumnus of Delhi University, vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi said. Jaitley's wife Sangeeta Jaitley and two children also attended the lecture. A documentary on the life of Arun Jaitley, who had served as a finance minister and defence minister, was also screened. PTI KND SNE SNE

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