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Unfinished business

The 15th Lok Sabha has passed some big-ticket laws. But not enough laws.

The 15th Lok Sabha is two months away from the end of its term, the highlight of which has been the regular disruption of parliamentary proceedings. And while the passing of marquee legislation (food security, lokpal etc) provides a silver lining, Parliament’s ability to make laws has been the biggest casualty of the disruptions. There are currently 123 bills pending in Parliament. Seventy-two of these bills will lapse at the end of the Lok Sabha’s term, making it the worst performing Lok Sabha, in terms of legislative business, in the last 60 years.

Parliamentary procedure specifies that a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha will lapse at end of its term if it is pending passage in either house of Parliament. A bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha and passed by it will also lapse if it remains pending in the Lok Sabha at the end of its term. If, after the general elections, the new government plans to take up the lapsed bills, they will have to be introduced again in Parliament and the legislative process would start afresh. Moreover, political consensus and the momentum of public opinion around different pieces of legislation would have to be built again. As a result, the lapsing of bills will push the country back a number of years with respect to addressing the gaps in law and policy.

Take for example the government’s multipronged approach to tackling corruption. Out of the nine bills introduced in Parliament to address corruption, only two — the Lokpal Bill and the bill to amend the provisions related to money laundering — have been passed. Of the remaining seven, five cover issues related to citizen charters, electronic service delivery, benami transactions, government procurement and preventing bribery of foreign officials, and are pending in both Houses and may lapse. The remaining two, which deal with protection for whistleblowers and judicial standards, have been passed by the Lok Sabha and will also lapse if they are not passed by the Upper House before the Lok Sabha is dissolved.

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