At 122 percent, the productivity of the last budget session of Parliament (February – May 2015) was the highest since the turn of the century. In sharp contrast, the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament (21 July – 13 August 2015) has so far been a washout. Could it have been avoided? Possibly, but it was improbable under the circumstances, given the government’s intransigence and the Congress’ insistence on no-discussionwithout- resignations. Taken together with the most recent suspensions of 25 Congress lawmakers by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, it has served to revive an old debate about docking MPs’ pay and/or daily allowances for disrupting Parliament.
There is no gainsaying that in a vibrant and robust parliamentary democracy, especially such as ours, the Opposition would, as it should, raise legitimate concerns and issues on the floor of the House. At the same time, it behoves of the government of the day to forge the broadest possible consensus for ensuring that legislative and non-legislative business can be taken up and the crores of taxpayers’ money that it takes to keep both Houses of Parliament in session are justified.
The acuteness of the situation can be understood from the following data compiled by the PRS Legislative Research: Since the Seventh Lok Sabha (1980-84) which was the most productive in India’s history at 120 percent, there has been a general decline in the productivity of the lower House of Parliament, with the previous (15th) Lok Sabha being the least productive ever at 61 percent.
Some bjp mps have spoken about introducing a no-work-nopay rule to discourage indiscriminate disruption of Parliament but it is widely seen as not being practical. Ironically, the issue of cutting pay of the MPs disrupting the House was raised by the Congress’ lawmakers during UPA- 2 when the BJP as the principal Opposition party paralysed the 2011 winter session of Parliament over price rise, black money and foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and the 2010 winter session of Parliament over its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G scam. Clearly, for the BJP and the Congress alike, now the shoe is on the other foot.
Woven into this debate is a recommendation made by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution for stipulating a minimum number of days of sitting in a year for the Lok Sabha (120 days) and the Rajya Sabha (100 days). It is by far a more reasonable option than suspending errant MPs or docking their pay; the latter is not seen as being enough of a deterrent to dissuade or persuade the MPs from disrupting the House proceedings.