India is the largest democracy in the world (population-wise). It is a laboratory for democratic success. Although the Constituent Assembly was not very confident about the success of parliamentary democracy, the founding fathers were convinced that any parliamentary system could hold the country together, providing space for its diversity to co-exist.
In Constituent Assembly, a plea was made that India should prefer the presidential form of democracy. After purposive, elaborative marathon discussion, the country adopted a parliamentary democratic system and responsibility for providing direction, momentum, and institution for social re-engineering was given to the parliament.
In this article, you will read about the expected role of the Indian parliament, the current declining state of affairs of the democracy, and how can it be reinstated.
Parliamentary Democracy: Dimensions
Issues and dimensions relating to parliamentary democracy can be classified under four heads:
Let us read all four one by one.
1. Constitutional Arrangement
The power, privileges and immunities of both the houses of the parliament are laid out in Article 105 of the Constitution of India. The arrangement provides for the following:
- Freedom of Speech: This privilege is guaranteed for the smooth and effective functioning of the parliamentary democracy. It enables the members to express even their controversial opinions in the House without fear or apprehension.
- Immunity From Civil and Criminal Proceedings: This is an important aspect of the parliamentary system in India. Anything said by any member or any vote given is not liable to proceed in any court of law.
2. Role of Parliament in Parliamentary Democracy
In the parliamentary system, the Indian parliament, as a symbol and agent of democracy, is expected to perform various roles like:
- effective control over the executive,
- to provide platforms for healthy discussion and consensus in decision-making to legitimise the collective decision,
- to increase political awareness in society,
- to represent the people of India outside the country.
In the last decade of the 20th century; numerous changes took place like:
1. There has been an increased scientification of politics and the involvement of experts. Today, scientific experts are expected to advise policymakers in the politics of science and technology. These experts generally have different voices and viewpoints that are not based on voting counts. Political leadership needs to enhance the ability to synchronise experts’ efforts and maintain the balance between competency of experts and parliamentary sovereignty.
2. There has been an expansion in the role of the organisation as an instrument or vehicle for collective decision-making. Today, the government is diffused beyond parliament. It demands participation. Civil societies are expected to play vital roles. The organised citizen is more important than the individual citizen. Civil societies are required to make decisions more acceptable.
3. Changing international environment, which is characterised by globalisation and transnationalism.
Parliamentary democracy’s success depends upon the satisfaction of the following conditions:
- Uniformed belief system
- Standardised economic prosperity
- Absence of social tension
- An ideology-based strong major national political parties. For example, In the USA, there are two major national political parties – The Republican Party and The Democratic Party. In India, there are more than 2000 political parties, and that’s problematic!
3. Parliament in Operation
Although parliament is expected to perform in new areas along with old ones with a higher level of energy and ability, the dynamics of parliament in India show a negative trend. Unfortunately, the Indian parliament suffers from a lack of democratic stability, including a bargaining culture or pluralism and an absence of ideological differences. Parliamentary democracy in India suffers from frequent adjourned motions, and walkouts are becoming a regular feature during parliamentary sessions. Speakers frequently announce a suspension of the session, which should be considered a crime against parliamentary democracy.
Political parties nowadays generally use the instrument of the whip to force their member to follow the party line during discussions and voting. As a result, voting based on conscience is a matter of the past.
Communalism, casteism, regionalism, corruption, religious fundamentalism, criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crimes have become an integral part of parliamentary democracy.
Herman Finer, a British political scientist, was of the view that ‘if power holders exercise self-restraint, the written constitution is unnecessary, and if they do not, then no written constitution will have the power to check them.’
It is a matter of fact that the lack of constitutional morality in India is responsible for the country’s deteriorating health. Pollution in political culture in quality of the country. After six decades of the parliamentary system in India, we have delivered more negatives than positives.
Nana Palkhivala identified four costly failures of India’s political system and parliamentary democracy. These are:
- Failure to maintain law and order,
- Failure to bring the economic potential of the country for inclusive growth in India,
- Failure to make human investment,
- Failure to provide moral leadership.
4. Assessment of Parliamentary Democracy in India
Today, it is essential to change the trend to make parliamentary democracy healthy. Several initiatives are taken to streamline the union-state relationship to make anti-defection law more effective and to make the parliamentary committee system more robust.
At present, healthy debates and discussions, which are the hallmark of parliamentary democracy, are overshadowed by disruption and confrontation. As a result, public as well as national interests are sacrificed to satisfy personal interests of the political leaders.
To check these, all codification of parliamentary privileges should be taken seriously, and Article 105 should be redefined. Political parties should display greater awareness. There should be respect and faith for parliamentary democracy, and wider participation should be allowed. The fundamental role of parliament as a watchdog of public finance should be discharged immediately.
Parliament needs to address all these issues to make the system more qualitative. Nothing is more important than continued political education and inculcation of ethical, moral and political virtues in those responsible for strengthening the root of parliamentary democracy in India. There is a hope that people will also contribute to making parliamentary democracy successful and effective. One should hope that the future will be bright with parliamentary democracy and political system will not destroy the basic foundation of the Indian democracy.
The Expected Role of Parliament
The new expected role of the parliament are:
1. Enhancing the cognitive ability of parliament as per the demand of modern complexity. In today’s world, parliament needs to use high-quality information to increase the standard of discussion in the house. Parliamentarians should not rely on a single information source. Instead, they are advised to go for data collection, develop a model and transform these collected data into applicable knowledge to make the discussion qualitative.
There is a need for a parliamentary research service centre for parliamentarians to gather relevant information before discussions. Parliament must consider and prepare policy and programmes for future development through proactive analysis. Parliament should develop an integrative approach and method to address the problems of fragmentation and contradiction.
2. Enhancement of the parliamentary capacity to regulate governmental and non-governmental bodies. With improved intellectual capacity, parliament is expected to regulate, hold accountable and secure greater legitimacy for governmental as well as non-governmental bodies in key issue areas. It will be essential for parliament to define and design new legislation to regulate its daily duties and responsibilities.
3. Role in Enhancing Public Participation and Learning: Parliament is expected to serve as a service provider. It should provide a major public space for debate. Today, diverse influential organisations have limited contact with parliament. However, they directly or indirectly influence the process of policy formulation and implementation. In the era of citizen-centric administration and quality democracy, parliament is expected to pave the way for their regular participation. Parliament should strengthen its function as a stimulus and facilitation of public discussion. It should take the initiative to promote public discussions and awareness of major social transformations.
Parliament is expected to initiate the process of open social change and develop a complementary form of modern democracy where government along with civil society will play a key role in making systems more energetic, alert, accountable and vibrant.
Transparency Independent’s view was that: “In India, family is responsible for corruption.” Transparency International is an organisation that is working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption.