Nothing Private About It

The concept of private members’ bill is central to a deliberative democracy.

Written by S.N. Sahu | Published:July 29, 2016 12:15 am
   private member Bill, Andhra Pradesh, parliament, monsoon session, what is private member bill, special status of andhra pradesh, andhra pradesh special status, rajya sabha, 5 private member bill passed, the Hindu Marriage bill, Indian Marine Insurance Bill, IPC bill, Tiruchi Siva’s private member’s bill, transgender bill, Role of a Private Member, 1950 private member bill, 1952 private member bill, indian express column, column The bill is now scheduled to be discussed in the house on August 5.

The Power to make law is the most important power of Parliament. Either the government or a member of Parliament can initiate legislation for making law. Any MP who is not a minister is a private member and he or she can submit a legislative proposal for enacting it as law. Discussion on a private member’s bill rarely gets disrupted as it did on July 22, 2016 when the private member’s bill concerning special status for Andhra Pradesh was caught up in a pandemonium. There was a demand from a section of the house on July 26 and 27 that the bill be taken up for voting. Rule 24 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Rajya Sabha mandates that unless the chairman otherwise directs , not less than two-and-a-half hours of a sitting on Friday shall be allotted for transaction of private members’ business.The bill is now scheduled to be discussed in the house on August 5.

Out of 14 private members’ bills enacted so far since the commencement of Parliament in 1952, five were introduced in the Rajya Sabha and became law of the land. These are: The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of National Importance, Second Amendment) Bill, 1954; the Hindu Marriage (Amendment)Bill, 1956; the Indian Marine Insurance Bill, 1959; the Orphanages and other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Bill, 1959; and the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1963. The importance of private members’ legislations cannot be understood just by their sheer quantity or in terms of the number of such legislations becoming acts of Parliament. The real value can be measured from the ripples they cause and their impact on the government and the public at large.

The then nominated Rajya Sabha MP Rukmini Devi Arundale’s stirring speech on her private member’s bill for preventing cruelty against animals moved Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who assured her of a comprehensive law and she, thereafter, withdrew it. In 1954, Lilavati Munshi’s private members’ resolution against screening of undesirable films was adopted by the Rajya Sabha and the government, therefore, amended the Cinematograph Act and imposed censorship on films. In the 1970s, the Rajya Sabha adopted Banka Behary Das’s resolution for abolition of privy purses and privileges of princely rulers and it was historic in every sense of the term. In 2015, Tiruchi Siva’s private member’s bill on the rights of transgenders was passed by the Rajya Sabha 37 years after the house last passed a private member’s bill.

Unruly scenes do disrupt the private member’s business. On May 7, 2010, the chairman, Rajya Sabha, in his valedictory remarks observed that private members’ business suffered the most on account of disruptions of proceedings of the House. Private members’ resolutions are like “… mirrors with high reflectance value” and these are taken seriously even though very few are adopted by the house. Therefore, MPs are in the forefront to initiate private members’ resolutions and bills on numerous issues and press for discussion and voting.

The historic role played by private members in initiating legislations and resolutions influenced the thinking of the government and propelled it to bring comprehensive legislations on the subject. Former President R. Venkataraman, as chairman, Rajya Sabha, in his speech on the “The Role of a Private Member of Parliament” delivered in the Harold Laski Institute of Political Science in 1986 cherished his role as a private member more than any other role he played in public life. Private members’ resolutions on abolition of capital punishment moved in the Rajya Sabha in 1958 and 1961 by Prithviraj Kapoor and Savitry Devi Nigam respectively and the latest such resolution of D. Raja pending in the house were invoked by Gopal Gandhi in an insightful article on the subject.

In the 1950s, Rajya Sabha MP Seeta Paramananda was repeatedly requested by ministers to withdraw her private member’s bills and resolutions and she sarcastically observed that the time allotted for Friday for private members’ business should be rechristened as “government assurance day for comprehensive legislation”. Introduction of more private members’ bills augurs well for our democracy. These are healthy indicators of constructive and deliberative legislative behaviour which are categorical imperatives for parliamentary democracy.

The author is joint secretary, Rajya Sabha Secretariat. The views expressed are personal

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  1. S
    Sanjay
    Jul 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm
    💥‼रोजगार सूचना‼💥lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;✅भारत में पहली बार घर बैठे कमाये 15,000 - 50,000 हर महीने बिना किसी खर्च केlt;br/gt;✅मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और कमाए हर महीने 15,000 - 50,000 रुपएlt;br/gt;✅दुनिया का पहला बिजनेस जिसे आप फेसबुक और व्हत्सप्प के द्वारा कर सकते हैंlt;br/gt;✅टोटली फ्री ज्वानिंग हैlt;br/gt;✅कमाया हुआ पैसा सीधा बैंक मे ट्रान्स्फरlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;बिजनेस की शुरुवात कैसे करेlt;br/gt;✅C'h'a'm'p`C'a's'h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस स्पौन्सर ID: 5 6 2 5 2`9lt;br/gt;✅चैलेंज को पूरा करेlt;br/gt;✅और इंकम करनी शुरू करेlt;br/gt;➡जरूरी ⬅lt;br/gt;C'h'a'm'p`C'a's'h स्पौन्सर ID: 5 6 2 5 2`9lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;.djsbsy
    Reply
  2. J
    John
    Jul 28, 2016 at 7:36 pm
    South Indian Nostradamus about 2020: Nothing but the truth….lt;br/gt;1. Chandra Babu Naidu’s TDP corruption will hit the ceiling. It will be worser than Congress corruption.lt;br/gt;2. Jagan will unite with Congress.lt;br/gt;3. Chandra Babu will lose both AP and Telangana.lt;br/gt;4. There will be hung or minority government in Andra in 2020.lt;br/gt;5. BJP will lose the few seats they won in Andra and they will be bed as the “ North Indian Cheating Party” , as thought before in South.lt;br/gt;6. People of Andra will be the “ Tax paying prisoners of India”lt;br/gt;7. Owing to Chandra Babu, TDP and his community corruption, North Andra and Royalseema will ask to be broken away from AP, as Vijayawada gets everything.lt;br/gt;8. People of Andra will fight among themselves and become poorer than Biharis…will officially replace Bihar in the ranking as worst in everything…AP will TOP THE LIST as "CASTE CRAZY MONKEYS”
    Reply
  3. K
    K SHESHU
    Jul 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm
    More often than not, private member's bills reflect major issues that must be amended in order to strengthen Consution. Private member's resolution of abolishing capital punishment by prithviraj Kapoor and others is a valuable contribution on the discussion of hanging people which is archaic practice.
    Reply
  4. J
    Jayesh
    Jul 29, 2016 at 6:40 am
    Firstly I welcome his views and agree need of hour. lt;br/gt;I wish to add MPs should be able to vote as per individual wishes and not as per party lines. That is second need to strengthen the democracy.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I feel we are far away from the point which author wants us to reach. Look at our parliament , RaGa makes an issue of 3 commodities as price rise while conveniently ignores inflation. Had he raised point about only those commodities and could show govt could do something which it could have it would been right thing for democracy but parliament was used for rhetoric and there were people who thumped the tables.
    Reply
  5. J
    Jagdish Chandra
    Jul 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm
    The private legislation, if bring to parliament for welfare public as well as humanity ground deserve to be allocated time to discuss and better would be political outfits particular National Parties to standby behind these Bill, if strengthen the democracy? But here are caveat too, nowadays, small of proportion of law makers have skill to lend their ears to working of parliament, extensively have not skill or intelligence on topic to take part in discussion. But contrary to it, parliament invaded by criminals who use to public mandate as MP to cloak their mischievous or malicious activities by using privilege power. However, recent China news paper editorial quotes, India is world biggest democracy recognised by international community, so under this misconception intent to lock horn with China? Here it is significant to note that recent events with northern neighbour create tension between the two nations, however even having been communist nation China too salutes India credential with international community, but our law makers...?
    Reply
  6. R
    Ramesh Chhabra
    Jul 29, 2016 at 6:05 pm
    Earlier, all sorts of tax, tariffs, fares, etc. were taken in budget for hiking. Healthy discussions were held in parliament/ emblies before ping of budget. Whether this practice is in continuation?
    Reply
  7. P
    Prateik
    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:37 am
    The private member will have to convince more than 50% people in both the houses to get his bill ped.lt;br/gt;Since this rarely happens, only 14 bills have ped since 1952.
    Reply
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