Debate has left the House
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Parliament, our highest democratic institution, has been subverted by members who refuse to let it function. Debate and discussion are spurned by the opposition, even as it agitates on issues of "national concern". If the government does not comply with the opposition's demands, the latter disrupts Parliament as a matter of course.
In the recent monsoon session, the BJP asserted that it had a right to hold up Parliament after the CAG's report on coal allocations, and that it would continue to do so until the prime minister resigned. Demanding the resignation of the prime minister or a minister is routine in the politics of a democracy. But holding Parliament to ransom for this is a travesty of democratic institutions and of the rule of law. In the monsoon session, the Lok Sabha lost 77 per cent of its working time and the Rajya Sabha 72 per cent. Every hour that was wasted meant a loss of Rs 1.50 crore. Only four out of 29 pending bills were passed in the session. The Lok Sabha passed three of these in 20 minutes, amidst the din. The presiding officers of both chambers were totally helpless to prevent the disruption and adjourned their respective Houses each day.
The prime minister and the government stated they were willing to debate the CAG report on the coal allocations and even to discuss the prime minister's alleged culpability. This would have been the proper way in a parliamentary democracy, but it was rejected by the BJP, which was adamant on the prime minister's resignation. The elementary principle of natural justice — to give the accused a chance to defend himself before he is condemned — seemed to have been forgotten. CAG reports are not sacrosanct; further examinations are needed to establish the findings of such reports. They are examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the findings of the latter become the subject of parliamentary debate. This established procedure was disregarded and Parliament was obstructed by shouting and slogans by a minority party.
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