Ignoring resistance and concerns expressed by some departments, the Centre has decided to make pre-legislative consultation (PLC) mandatory. Following the decision taken by a committee of secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary, the Union law ministry has sent a communication to all ministries and departments asking them to involve as many stakeholders, particularly the common man, while finalising draft laws and amendments to existing laws.
Departments which decide not to go through the process would be required to record their reasons, which would be included in the note to the Cabinet. Ordinances would, however, be exempted from the new process.
With this, India joins the club of nations like USA, UK, Canada, Switzerland and South Africa where such practice is followed. Confirming the development, Union Law and Legislative Secretary P K Malhotra told The Indian Express, “Yes, we have written to all ministries about the decision. It is a path-breaking decision and will ensure that all proposed laws are reflective of the will of the people. We are also shortly going to suitably amend the manual for parliamentary procedures and instructions issued by the government about writing cabinet notes.”
The existing procedures don’t provide for pre-legislative consultation. It is learnt that during discussions, many departments expressed misgivings about the workability of the process, with many secretaries referring to practical difficulties in implementing it.
Last year, the National Advisory Council led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi had recommended mandatory pre-legislative consultation for all proposed laws and rules. The NAC had said that this would draw its strength from the Constitution and would “create institutionalised space for people’s participation in the formulation of legislations in a systematic manner”. It had also said that such a policy of consultation would take the country from a “representative democracy to a participatory, deliberative democracy”.
As per the decision of the committee of secretaries, every department would have to “proactively disclose” the details of the proposed legislation on the internet as well as through other means, giving at least 30 days to the public to give its views. The public would also be given an explanatory note about the important provisions of the proposed legislation in “simple language”.
Once the consultation process is complete, the law ministry would vet the proposed law by including suggestions of the public that find favour with the concerned department.