Archive for February, 2013

Why do people not have trust in Parliament?

Posted on February 3, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |


Our democracy has a parliament-sized hole

Published in GovernanceNow, February 1-15, 2013
What trust can we expect a body to command from citizens at large when almost
30% of its members have criminal cases pending against them?

There can hardly be a sadder comment on the state of democracy
in a country, which is widely regarded as the most vibrant democracy in the
world, than to be told that the general population of the country does not trust
its parliament. Parliament is the highest altar in a representative democracy
and when the CVOTER survey comes up with the finding that it is the second least
trustworthy institution, it can cause nothing but great anguish.
The discourse about parliament and parliamentarians has acquired a sharper
edge over the last couple of years. Parliamentarians and politicians of various
hues have been vociferous in defending parliament, saying that criticising members
of parliament (MPs) is the same as criticising parliament, denigrating
democracy, and thus, against national interest. The critics say that while
they respect the institution of parliament, they cannot be faulted for critical
comment on the parliamentarians based on what the MPs actually do
in parliament. What, if any, is the truth in such contentions?
Let us look at some data.

The 2004 Lok Sabha had 125 MPs who had themselves
declared, in affidavits under oath, that they had criminal cases pending
against them in which (a) charges had been framed by a court of law, and (b)
the punishment under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was two years or more of imprisonment. That was the first Lok Sabha election in which the Association for
Democratic Reforms (ADR) analysed the affidavits of all candidates submitted by

them as a necessary part of their nomination forms under a judgment of the
supreme court in 2003. This was done in the hope that dissemination of such
information would lead to a reduction in the number of ‘lawbreakers becoming

Those hopes were belied when in 2009 political parties gave even more tickets
to persons with criminal cases pending against them resulting in the number of
MPs in the Lok Sabha, with criminal cases pending against them, increasing to 162!
What trust can we expect a body to command from citizens at large when
almost 30% of its members have criminal cases pending against them?
With this kind of composition, let us see what the parliamentarians have been
doing. PRS Legislative Research compiles data about various aspects of the
functioning of parliament. For some of their findings for the last two sessions of
parliament, please see the box at the end.
Taking a historical view, we find that the Lok Sabha met for an average of 127
days in the 1950s and Rajya Sabha for 93 days. This has decreased to 73 days for
both houses in 2011.
Parliament has ceased to be the forum for meaningful discussion of proposed
legislation. It has, sadly, become an akhara, a setting of muscle flexing by
political parties to show their brute strength by forcefully disrupting its functioning.
There have been instances when the leader of the opposition in one of the
houses would announce in the evening that they would not allow parliament
to function the next day. This kind of premeditated prevention of parliament
from functioning is the greatest offence against democracy, and thus against the
nation, and since it is acquiesced to by the government of the day, they are also
equally guilty.
Why does this happen? The primary reason is that political parties do not feel
accountable to anyone except themselves. There is a feeling of invulnerability
and smugness in the political parties that once elected, they are safe for five
years and can “do whatever they like”, as actually said by one of the leading
There is definitely a lack of trust in parliament and the responsibility squarely
lies with the leaders of political parties (See “Funeral of Parliament”, Govenance-
Now, October 16-31, 2012). The only way to correct this gross distortion is to make
political parties internally democratic as suggested as far back as 1999 by the Law
Commission of India.


Winter Session 2012
Productive Time
• Productive time in Lok Sabha was 53% of scheduled time: i.e. 63 of 120 hours.
• Productive time in Rajya Sabha was 58% of scheduled time; 58 of 100 hours.
• Both houses were frequently disrupted
Question Hour
• In Lok Sabha, question hour was held on 11 of 20 days.
• In Rajya Sabha, question hour was held on only eight of 20 days.
• The chairman of Rajya Sabha expressed concern over the continued disruption of question hour.


Monsoon Session 2012
Productive Time
• Lok Sabha was scheduled to meet for 120 hours and Rajya Sabha for 100 hours. However, the actual productive time was 24 hours in Lok Sabha and 27 hours in Rajya Sabha.
• This makes the monsoon session of 2012 the worst since winter session 2010 when not a single day’s work could be achieved.
• The 15th Lok Sabha (since May 2009 to monsoon session 2012) has been the most disrupted term of the house in the history of parliament. Productive time in this term has been 67% of total scheduled time.
Time spent in discussing Bills
• Since the beginning of the 15th Lok Sabha, 20% of all bills passed by Lok Sabha were discussed for less than five minutes. A total of 20 bills have been passed in this manner.
• In Rajya Sabha six bills were passed in less than five minutes of debate each.
• Another nine bills in Lok Sabha were passed in under 30 minutes of discussion each. Rajya Sabha passed five bills with under 30 minutes of debate since 2009.


Chhokar is a former professor, dean, and director in-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad. He now
lives and works in Delhi.

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    This blog contains Jagdeep S. Chhokar’s views, opinions, and comments on variety of issues.


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