In our Parliamentary form of Government, the day-to-day working of the Parliamentary system largely depends upon the effective and efficient performance of elected representatives. Over a period of time, Parliamentary programme covers numerous intricate matters-financial, legislative and non-legislative-concerning various Ministries/Departments of the Government. However, there is no fixed criteria or mandatory schedule for conduct of sessions in both Legislative Assemblies and Parliament in the country as it is not properly regulated or governed under a specific legal mandate. Further, there is no periodical performance evaluation system for the members. It is seen that even during National Disaster and Medical emergency in this pandemic situations neither the Assembly sessions nor the parliament sessions are being conducted even through available technology resources whereas even international conferences are facilitated through video sessions. This aspect is also not subject to any judicial scrutiny as once elections are completed and members take oath of office, the Conduct of Assembly and Parliamentary session’s forms under the prerogative of the elected government in power. Though some states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Orissa are periodically publishing the statistics related to the working of Assemblies and Councils there is no single database to monitor and compare the business hours and the nature of debates and questions engaged by elected representatives in the conduct of business in our temples of democracy to evaluate the performance of elected representatives.
PERFORMANCE OF ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES NOT UNDER LEGAL SCRUTINY
Members get elected on the basis of their political strength or personal popularity in terms of many tangible and intangible aspects under the due democratic process at the cost of tax payers’ money and exchequer. But they are never subject to any formal or informal performance evaluation. Over the last several decades since independence there has been depletion or deterioration in the quality of membership. This has often driven to a situation that since education or age has never been a criteria for eligibility to become members, they stay either illiterate or can hold the office for any terms by default on account of his/her political strength. Statistics suggest that members can remain absent for any length of period, stay mute or silent without engaging in any debates, indulge regularly in walkouts, sleep inside the houses during live sessions, watch even pornographic contents on their handsets, use abusive and foul languages, disrupt the proceedings without any decorum or order, frequent adjournments, etc. People who elected them stay as mute spectators and overall productive business often stays an unrealisable entity during any tenure and as a result huge expenditure and overheads is placed on the exchequer. On top of it, despite all such ‘performances’ they are paid salary and allowances and draw pensions besides enjoying multiple privileges and pensionary benefits for life-time.
The Elected or the Government in power regulates the functions of these houses under a separate Ministry and acts as a facilitator to constantly improve Government's interaction with houses of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies. In States like Tamil Nadu rampant usage of Rule 110, where the Chief Minister or any minister can announce or bring any resolution to the assembly which can be passed without any discussion under an undefined “Emergency” to suit the whims and fancies of political agenda especially during elections. Article 122 of our Constitution states as under and is impliedly applicable to State Assemblies:
Courts not to inquire into proceedings of Parliament.
- The validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.
- No officer or Member of Parliament in whom powers are vested by or under this Constitution for regulating procedure or the conduct of business, or for maintaining order, in Parliament shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise by him of those powers.
With a view to strengthening the roots of democracy and inculcating habits of discipline and tolerance and for enabling the elected representatives to have and develop intimate knowledge of the working of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, there should be a separate specific enactment to periodically evaluate and govern the performance in its highest order underlying the following principles in a broad framework:
- Attendance should be compulsory for all elected members except of medical grounds.
- No Work No Pay concept should be introduced for members.
- Every member should be given equal opportunity to debate and discuss in the house and the session should be scheduled in such a manner that “Question Hour” should be statutorily accommodated in every day of sitting irrespective of the purpose of conduct.
- Stringent punishment including deduction of salary and penalties should be imposed for Disruption, behaving unparliamentarily, frequent absenteeism, etc under a suitable statute.
- Parliament and Legislative Assembly sessions should be invariably conducted at least 15 days in any month preferably during lean working period at their constituencies.
- Every member including Minister should be a permanent resident of his constituency at least for a minimum period of five years and should meets the members of public and facilitate disposal of all petitions and grievances within a period of 15 days from its receipt on hand.
- A centralized online register published in the website of Government should furnish all details of work rendered by members including rate of disposal. A separate analytics and comparative performance evaluation should be made available in public domain.
- A scientific assessment and rating should be designed and formulated for performance evaluation of members including negative scores earned for engaged in adverse activities beyond his constitutional duties.
- A separate data or financial statements should be made available in public domain about the business activities of elected members and family members to evaluate the growth of assets periodically.
- Performance evaluation of elected members should be based on the attendance in the Assembly , starred and unstarred questions raised in the Assembly or Parliament, Effective and Efficient utilisation of Local Area Funds, Periodical citizen perception survey conducted by independent professional and academic universities, level of education qualifications, Criminal and corruption record and interaction with both mainstream and social media that invokes controversies.
- Level and periodicity of connect with the electorate is the key to justify peoples’ representation and there is need to develop a software tool to evaluate and monitor the same.
- Monthly Evaluation of the status of election promises committed by the elected members at the time of election and the detailed constraints involved therein.
- Measure of overall accountability and performance appraisal periodically.
It is high time that since there is neither any specific law nor uniform regulated framework in place our democracy always gets trampled upon. Non-performance and inefficiency of members is mainly attributed to the fact that there is no scope for judicial scrutiny. This also involves huge cost to the Public Exchequer and it’s necessary that our temples of democracy need to be decorated with highest order.