Punjab assembly’s image hits all-time low: Bir Devinder Singh writes for HT | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Punjab assembly’s image hits all-time low: Bir Devinder Singh writes for HT

It’s a matter of shame that unconventional sordidness eclipsed the proceedings of the last session of the 14th Vidhan Sabha in Punjab. Such a downright decline of values in legislatures’ behaviour puts a question mark on future of the Parliamentary democracy.

punjab Updated: Sep 16, 2016 10:35 IST
“While the opposition members were to be squarely blamed for showing scant disregard to the rules of procedures and conduct of business, the speaker could also not be absolved of the responsibility for creating the chaotic paroxysm in the House.”
“While the opposition members were to be squarely blamed for showing scant disregard to the rules of procedures and conduct of business, the speaker could also not be absolved of the responsibility for creating the chaotic paroxysm in the House.”(HT File )

It’s a matter of shame that unconventional sordidness eclipsed the proceedings of the last session of the 14th Vidhan Sabha in Punjab. Such a downright decline of values in legislatures’ behaviour puts a question mark on future of the Parliamentary democracy.

As an avid student of Parliamentary practices and procedures, I have been watching the proceedings of the Punjab assembly for the past 40 years as a spectator and also as a member of the House. But never before have I seen the dignity of the House being brought to such ignominy.

Unfortunately, all men and women, who mattered in the assembly, contributed to diminishing its glory, and speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal was no exception. He miserably failed to uphold the dignity of the august chair. The unprecedented disorderliness, unleashed by some over-enthusiastic members of the House, showed the legislatures’ collective failure to uphold the minimal standards of decorum and graciousness. An unfairly dogmatic attitude of the speaker has contributed to chaos that marred the monsoon session of the assembly. As a former presiding officer of the Vidhan Sabha, I beg to differ with the premeditated unconventional decision of Atwal to do away with the question hour on September 14, the last sitting day of the House, just to facilitate the government in hurriedly passing the legislative business.

As many as 21 important bills were passed in a jiffy – and without any debate or discussion. The question hour is never bargained, even at a time when the House agrees to discuss the adjournment motion admitted by the speaker. The adjournment motion is ordinarily taken up soon after the question hour is over.

Yes, the speaker has the power to suspend the question hour or any other listed business if there is an extreme emergency, such as the death of a sitting member or a natural calamity. But he cannot help the government to rush through the legislative business. This was a monumental drift on the part of the speaker. He should have resisted the government pressure in the larger interest of laid down procedures and dignity of the House.

While the opposition members were to be squarely blamed for showing scant disregard to the rules of procedures and conduct of business, the speaker could also not be absolved of the responsibility for creating the chaotic paroxysm in the House. So much so that Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh, who resigned from the primary membership of the Akali Dal and intended to make a statement thereafter — in the form of personal explanation under Rule 56 of the Rules of procedures and conduct of business — was not allowed to do so.

After the shoe-hurling incident and free exchange of filthy diatribe thereafter, the speaker was well within his powers to address the House. But he refused to listen to the MLAs’ voices.

The Constitution of India is an instrument that unambiguously codifies the codes of procedures to enact laws by the legislatures through strict adherence to the spirit of the Parliamentary democracy. That ensures a wider participation of legislatures in meaningful debates on the issues before the House. That spirit, however, was given the go-by when the speaker allowed the passage of 21 legislations a hush-hush manner.

Even the theatre of absurd and comedy circus have some semblance of civility and self-control, but the ruckus in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha surpassed all canons of decorum. This kind of classic disgracefulness calls for a serious introspection by all the members of parliamentary institutions. The dignity of the House has to be restored if our Parliamentary institution has to survive with glory and righteousness. This would be possible if Punjab MLAs express fair degree of remorse on malevolence that marred the concluding session of Punjab assembly.

birdevinders@gmail.com

(The writer is former deputy speaker of Punjab. The views expressed are his personal)