Om Birla, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, said in Gandhinagar on Wednesday that the new practise of making accusations and counter-accusations instead of giving constructive criticism is not good for parliamentary democracy. He said this is because it creates a stalemate in the House on purpose.
The Lok Sabha Speaker was starting a programme to help MLAs get to know each other in the Gujarat Assembly. Speaker of Gujarat Assembly Shankar Chaudhary, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Deputy Speaker of Assembly Jetha Bharvad, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rushikesh Patel were also there.
The two-day orientation programme was put together by the Lok Sabha Secretariat in collaboration with the Gujarat Legislative Assembly Secretariat and the Parliamentary Research and Training Institute for Democracies (PRIDE). On Thursday, Governor Acharya Devvrat will give the final speech at the last session.
“In a democracy, criticism is a Shuddhi Yagna,” Birla told the crowd. But now, there’s a new tradition in (parliament and assembly) Houses of making accusations and counter-accusations instead of giving (constructive) criticism, which isn’t good for the country’s constitutional democracy.
“Today, there’s a new way to do things: to bring the House to a standstill on purpose… It’s not a good tradition for a parliamentary democracy,” Birla said, adding that parliamentary institutions should be a place for criticism but not for accusations and counter-accusations.
Birla said that he was worried about how the level of discussion and the level of respect in the Houses were going down. He asked the legislators to have good discussions and debates in the House.
“No MP or MLA can become a leader just by yelling slogans and making the House stand still. “Good talks and dialogues have made all of the leaders in legislative assemblies and parliament the same,” Birla said.
Later, at a press conference, Birla said that after the last meeting of all the country’s presiding officers, the Lok Sabha is working on making model procedures so that all the assemblies will have the same rules.
“However, each assembly is independent and has the power to make its own rules. We will come up with a model plan. It can be taken up by any group… We have tried to make sure that the legislative assemblies all follow the same rules. We are trying to make model by-laws by March and send them to all state legislative assemblies.
Birla was also asked about a tradition in the Gujarat Assembly, which is that reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and commissions set up by the state government that deal with sensitive issues are given to the House on the last day of the Assembly session, which means that no one can talk about them.
In response, he said, “Every state legislature has its own rules and ways of doing things. If you ask me about Lok Sabha, I can tell you about it.
Birla was also asked about the fact that live broadcasts of the Gujarat Assembly haven’t happened since 1995, when they used to. When asked if the Gujarat Assembly proceedings should be broadcast live or not, Birla said, “There are different rules in each state legislative assembly. Some places have live broadcasts, while others don’t. All of the legislative bodies are independent.”
In his speech, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said that the goal of the programme is to teach the MLAs of the 15th Gujarat assembly about the rules and procedures of the parliament. He also said that the MLAs would be able to do a better job and help the government solve people’s problems with this information.
Shankar Chaudhary, the Speaker of the Gujarat Assembly, said that he came up with the idea for this programme after he became Speaker and started reading up on the rules and procedures of the House.
As part of the orientation programme, the MLAs will get training on how to be an effective legislator, the committee system and parliamentary questions, the budgetary process, the legislative process, India’s presidency in the G-20, the ways to bring up urgent public issues in the House, parliamentary privileges and ethics, and the importance of constitutional bodies in a democracy.