We human beings are social animals since time immemorial for keeping society civilized laws were made. Earlier, society was simple, needs were limited, therefore, general rules of community living evolved, thereafter with the complexity, Religions were discovered and the religious laws emerged, they were followed under the fear of the Divine Power. In modern times, the governance is through constitutional democracy, citizens are responsible to make Laws through representative body i.e. Legislatures. It is expected that the laws in modern times should focus on the protection of human rights and the promotion of equality and welfare.
On the occasion of the 75th Independence Day celebrations, the Chief Justice of India lamented the sorry state of affairs of lawmaking and Parliamentary Debate in the country. According to him, there is a lot of ambiguity in the laws, they are causing a lot of litigation and inconvenience to the people. He is of the opinion that the standards of law-making had fallen over the years and the lightning speed by which the laws are being passed is a major concern.
Constitution is our basic Legislation and all laws are to be framed within the limits laid down by it. For framing the Constitution it took more than 2 years and 11 months, 3 draft readings, 7653 amendments out of which 2473 were discussed. For this 11 sessions were convened. The Parliament and State Legislatures are created under the head Legislatures which means the Forums which will make laws, this shows that according to Constitution the primary work of these Houses is to make laws, the rest are ancillary.
In the first 50 years after every 7 months on average, the Constitution was amended as 80 amendments were caused till 2000. In the last 25 years, there are additional 25 amendments. Earlier, the Amendment Bills were by default referred to Joint Committees, debated at length not only in Parliament but in public also. I could not recollect discussion on the recent constitutional amendments in public Forums, calling of the objections on the Bills, placing of the reports of relevant Parliamentary Committees or the debates in the Parliament, this resulted in the amendments like Co-operative, National Judicial Accountability, which failed to stand the test of constitutionality and were quashed by Supreme Court. The amendment related to OBC was to be re-amended within a short span.
Even, we have seen the laws that were made with haste, and a major section of Indian citizens was troubled and agitated. It was said that the laws related to the farmers are made for their betterment but the country is witnessing unprecedented agitations by the farmers for a year against those laws. The Citizenship Amendment Act is a further blot on our constitutional democracy that has damaged the reputation of the country internationally and the Government faced opposition throughout the country.
There are 3 lists in the 7th Schedule specifying and separating subjects on which Parliament and State Legislature can make laws, both can legislate on the subjects mentioned in the concurrent list. There is a provision for Inter-State Council so that before making any law or policy, there could be a dialogue between the Centre and States. Before discussion in Parliament, the Bills are expected to be scrutinized by Parliamentary Committees, calling of response and general discussions amongst people is desirable.
In February 2000 under the Chairmanship of Justice Venkatachaliah, ‘The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution was constituted. In its report, the Commission had expressed its displeasure about the quality of Legislation and made certain recommendations that include the appointment of the Constitutional Committee to ensure the laws to be made are not ultra vires to the Constitution and the amendments not to be introduced in Parliament like ordinary pieces of Legislation. Another important suggestion was the circulation of Bills for public discussion.
The responsibility of Law Makers is very crucial, their one vote changes the destiny of millions of families. As the Parliament is not able to dedicate enough time to discuss on the Legislations, the tendency in Executive to devise important policies without bringing before the Parliament is on increase, the action of demonetization of Rs.500/- and Rs.1,000/- Currency Notes was such Executive fiat that has devastated each citizen of the country. Uncertainty in Taxation Laws is a further major threat to our economic development.
This reminds me of the prophetic advice of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
“Where are we?
Where are we now, dear friends,
In the Maha Sabha that shapes history,
The call of heartbeats of Indian people,
People ask us, people ask us;
Oh! Parliamentarians, the sculptors of Mother India,
Lead us unto light, enrich our lives.
Your righteous toil is our guiding light,
If you work hard, we all can prosper.
Like King, so the people,
Nurture great thoughts, rise up in action,
May righteous methods are your guide;
May you all prosper ever with Almighty’s grace.”
Holding the Parliamentarians or Legislatures solely responsible for the bad quality of Legislation is not justified, we common man are equally responsible. The MPs and MLAs are elected to make laws but we expect them to take care of our roads, drains and Police Stations forgetting that for this purpose we have Municipal Bodies and Village Panchayats. We also do not question our representatives for not taking care of the larger interest while enacting the laws or for their absence from the House during the discussion on such laws. If we expect better Legislation, we should be more vigilant about the performance of our representatives, at the same time, our representatives should live to the constitutional mandate and the Oath they have taken while entering the Temples of Democracy.
Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court