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Falling number of sittings worries all

Parliament of India had the least number of sittings — just 46 days — in 2008, the lowest since it came into being in 1952.

delhi Updated: Jul 29, 2009 01:12 IST

Parliament of India had the least number of sittings — just 46 days — in 2008, the lowest since it came into being in 1952.

Alarmed by the decline in parliamentary business, political parties and the government are deliberating on bringing in a constitutional amendment that makes it mandatory for Parliament to have a minimum number of sittings.

A private members Bill that proposes to make 120 sittings compulsory for Parliament will come for discussions in the Rajya Sabha on Friday. The issue has caught the attention of the government and the parties, yet again.

The Bill, by Samajwadi Party MP Mahendra Mohan, also proposes to make at least 60 sittings compulsory for state legislatures.

“There is a discussion going on this with other parties. But no decision has been taken yet,” said Pawan Kumar Bansal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister.

“We are favourable towards the idea. Parliament must sit more often,” said Ravishankar Prasad, MP, spokesperson of BJP.

A recent meeting of party leaders called by leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee has agreed in principle to ensure 100 days spread across three sessions annually.

Parliaments in UK and Canada sit for at least 140 days a year while the US Congress exceeds 150 days of business in an average year.

The discussion on the Bill had started last Friday and will continue and conclude this Friday. The government usually expresses its views on matters raised by private members Bill. Sources, who did not want to be identified, said the government had informally sought the opinion of political parties on the issue.

“Though it is not easy to legislate on the issue, there is a sense among most parties that the number of sittings must increase,” he said.

Indian parliament had 109 sittings in 1985, 78 in 1995 and 77 in 2006 — showing a sharp decline over two decades.

Factional politics leading to frequent disruptions led to the decline but parliamentarians such as CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta have been demanding a constitutional amendment mandating 100 sittings at least.

The minimum number of days for which Parliament or state legislatures should sit in a year is not laid down in the constitution. The only condition is there should not be more six months between two sessions of Parliament.