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Private Member’s Bills and policy making: A closer look

Private Member’s Bills and policy making: A closer look

By Nirendra Dev

New Delhi, Jul 7 (UNI) No business is small business and more so in Parliament.

The Parliamentary procedures for discussions in both the Houses of Parliament must be taken seriously and in the past, issues and subject matters debated in Private Member’s Hour or taken up in the form of Private Member’s Bill often influenced government of the day to frame key policies.

The newly elected members of the 17th Lok Sabha were told so in as many words by BJP chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Mr Shah made these observations on July 4 during an Orientation Programme for the new lawmakers at an event, organised by Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training of the Lok Sabha.

Rising above party affiliation, Mr Shah cited the illustration on how Late Marxist leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had moved a Private Member’s Bill on making Nepali an official language and as part of the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

“Somnath Chatterjee was a very committed and a live-wire lawmaker. He had moved a Private Member’s Bill and finally the government had to bring in an official Bill to include Nepali as a language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution,” Mr Shah has said.

The Union Home Minister, who is also a first time lawmaker in the Lok Sabha having been to Rajya Sabha briefly since 2017, tried to drive home the point that the newly elected MPs and also others should take every business of the House seriously.

Private Member’s Business in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are taken up every Friday after 1530 hrs and 1430 hrs respectively.

In the past, important laws were framed based on the debates and discussions while taking up Private Members' Bills.

The 61th Amendment to the Constitution that reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 actually originated from a Private Member's draft legislation initiated by Bhupesh Gupta (CPI), Shiva Chandra Jha (BJP) and Satya Prakash Malviya (Janata Dal).

The veteran communist Bhupesh Gupta had earlier played another epoch making role when he along with other Rajya Sabha colleagues Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee (Congress), Chitta Basu (Forward Bloc) and Banka Behary Das (Praja Socialist Party) had led finally to adoption of 26th Amendment that abolished privy purses in 1971.

Interestingly, of the 300 or so Private Members' Bills introduced in the 14th Lok Sabha (May 17, 2004 – May,18 2009) barely four per cent were discussed and 96 per cent lapsed without even a single debate in the House.

Till date, Parliament has passed 14 Private Members' Bills. Five of these were passed in 1956 alone and the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill was passed in 1968 that became an Act on 9 August 1970.

In recent times, the Rajya Sabha passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 on April 24, 2015, - much to the embarrassment of the ruling BJP and the draft law is now pending before the Lok Sabha.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by DMK lawmaker Tiruchi Siva. During the debate, Mr Siva had argued that 29 nations had laws regarding transgender rights.

The Bill is considered historic as for being the first Private Members' Bill to be passed by any House in 36 years and by the Rajya Sabha in 45 years.

Usually, the Private Members' Bills are withdrawn after a debate and the government assures the members to consider the subjects in law making and incorporate their suggestions.

A Private Members’ Bill is allowed to be introduced in either Houses of Parliament by giving prior notice of one month along with a copy of the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ wherein the member concerned explains her or his rationale for bringing the Bill.

There is also a Parliamentary Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions which allots time to such draft laws.

Lately, Congress member from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor also made news when he introduced a Private Members' Bill in the Lok Sabha seeking to establish a regulatory mechanism for the online gaming sector.

The Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill introduced on January 16, 2019 aims to bring the sector under the government’s sight that would also help curb generation of black money.

Mr Tharoor has said: ".....the bill acknowledges the fact that the increasing commercial nature of sports increases financial incentives for vested interests to manipulate sporting events".

During the height of Ram Temple row of Ayodhya in November 2018, BJP's Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha took to Twitter and has said that he would move a Private Member's Bill on the same.

In 1997, a major change in tradition was brought at the initiative of Rajya Sabha Chairman K R Narayanan that said three Bills can be brought by members per session. Earlier individual members could introduce up to three Bills in a week but this often led to a piling up of Bills which were not discussed.


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