A Parliamentary democracy envisages a Parliament as the primary legislative body and as a major check on executive power. How true is this in the Indian context? In today’s post, I look at data on previous Lok Sabhas to test the quality of Parliamentary democracy in India.
Chart 1 looks at data on bills passes by the 15th Lok Sabha, Chart 2 looks at the discussion time for each bill in the 15th Lok Sabha, Chart 3 maps the productive time of historical Lok Sabhas and Chart 4 looks at historical data on ordinances. The data shows a steady decline in the deliberative quality and productivity of the Indian Parliament. Ordinances, however, have not dramatically risen in recent years. A huge shout out to PRS for the great data that they have collected and shared.
It is clear that the 15th Lok Sabha was particularly abysmal in its functioning. Constant scams and disruption of Parliament made any discussion on the Bills near impossible. Bills were passed with little discussion, vesting great power in the drafters of the Bill.
While India is a Parliamentary democracy, little in the way of legislation seems to be happening within its hallowed halls. Parliament is more in the news for stalled sessions and political theatrics than it is for debate and deliberation. Reasoned opposition and bi-partisan actions lie abandoned. This has important consequences for the nature of Indian democracy. Parliament is supposed to act as a check on the executive but a dysfunctional Parliament only leads to greater concentration of power within the executive. Bills and laws are passed with little discussion or cloaked as executive orders. This breakdown of constitutional roles calls for a strict look at the nature of Indian democracy and its institutional safeguards.