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Govt to have mandatory pre-legislative consultation

delhi Updated: Aug 23, 2011 20:59 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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The government would have a framework for mandatory pre-legislation consultations before a bill is introduced in Parliament, which can possibly prevent Anna Hazare type campaigns in future.

Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council has formed a working group on mandatory pre-legislative consultations to suggest the way to institutionalise pre-legislative consultations by the government before a bill is finalised.

Unlike European countries, India does not have a procedure to seek people's view on important legislations or policies. The consultation in European countries is at two levels -- concept and before finalisation.

First, a white paper is issued on the broad outlines of the proposed legislation with a few important questions on why the proposed law is required. Once the feedback is received on the white paper the draft legislation is prepared. Then, the draft legislation along with genesis of the comments are placed in public domain. The bill is sent for Cabinet approval with a detailed note on why certain suggestions were accepted or rejected.

In India, nothing like this happens.

For some laws certain consultation process is held for others its remains guarded under government's secrecy. Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh is holding consultation on draft land acquisition law but the same did not happen in case of the Lokpal Bill. The Lokpal Bill became public only after it was introduced in the Parliament.

But, Team Anna adopted a totally different strategy of finalised Jan Lokpal Bill after holding extensive consultation creating a lot of awareness about its provisions. "Our bill is of people whereas that the government's is a bureaucratic draft," said Arvind Kejriwal of Team Anna.

The discretion at the hands of the government to seek public views may end, according to a National Advisory Council member. "We are looking at an institutionalized framework for pre-legislative consultation process," the member, who requested anonymity said.

The broad discussions in the working group headed by NAC member Aruna Roy is on ensuring that the government gives specific replies to people's comments on a draft legislation. For getting broader view, the group plans to seek regional consultations.

"The framework is at the discussion stage...we are looking a roadmap which will work," the member said.

The Department of Personnel and Training has also constituted a task force to frame guidelines on mandatory disclosure under section 4 of the Right To Information Act. "One of the issues with the task force is to ensure consultation when policy is being framed," said Nikhil De of National Campaign For People Right To Information (NCPRI), who come out with its own version of Lokpal Bill after holding consultation with different group. Their draft is different from that of Team Anna.