The first few days of this last session of the 15th Lok
Sabha has mirrored its performance over the last five years. This Lok Sabha has the dubious distinction of seeing the highest percentage of time lost to disruptions (over a third of the scheduled time) leading to a decline in work done. This has resulted in the lowest number of bills passed by a full-term parliament (165 till now, compared to 297 and 248 in the previous two). Over a third of these have been passed without much deliberation on the floor of the House. The cost of parliament’s inability to perform effectively can be seen in it working below par on three of its key roles: making laws, holding the government to account for its actions, and allocating financial resources of the central government through the budgetary process.
A few bills with significant impact have been passed, early in the term of this parliament, and in the last one year. In 2009 and 2010, parliament enacted the Right to Education Act, established the Green Tribunal, and passed the Civil Nuclear Liability Act. After a long lull through 2011 and 2012, there was a prioritisation of some bills in 2013. Though just 15 bills (other than appropriation bills and the finance bill) were passed last year, these included the following: a new companies law, amendments to criminal law regarding safety of women, protection for women against sexual harassment at workplaces, land acquisition, food security, the Pension Bill and the Lokpal Bill.
That said, many important bills initiated by the two UPA governments have not been passed. These bills have implications across many sectors. These include bills that aim to restructure the regulatory architecture for higher education, a different one for medical education and the medical professions, a set of anti-corruption and service delivery bills, regulatory changes to ensure quality of seeds and pesticides for farmers, and a set of bills related to the economy and financial markets.
The list of bills related to the economy illustrates the failure to meet the ambitious targets. The Direct Taxes Code Bill was initiated in 2008 (as a draft) with the aim to simplify the tax system. It aimed at removing most exemptions and deductions (as these distort economic decision-making) which would provide the space to reduce the tax rate while remaining revenue neutral. By the time the bill was introduced, several provisions related to