In India, the laws for the whole country are made by the Union Government. For the respective states, it is the state government that makes the laws as well as the local municipal councils and districts.
Concerning the Union Government, any proposed bills under India’s legislative procedure, the proposed bills must pass through the two legislative houses, the Parliament of India, i.e., the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Similarly, the legislative procedure for states with bicameral legislatures requires that proposed bills be passed; it must be passed at least in the lower house or the Vidhan Sabha and not necessary for the same to be passed in the upper house or the Vidhan Parishad.
The process of passing proposed bills and the Bill to finally become an Act is very well laid down in the Constitution. However, whether the same is being followed as per the very dictates mentioned in the Constitution is questionable.
What is the current process of introducing a proposed bill?
If we look at the current process, the laws that are made are not only undemocratic but also Unconstitutional.
A lot needs to be observed and questioned about the current process in how the bills are passed in the Parliament of the country?
The laws are introduced in the name of public welfare and well-being of the country; however, the point to be noted here is that these bills and the latent issues are seldom disclosed to the general public.
The general public is not given the freedom to express on the laws passed. They are not privy to the laws. Neither are they allowed to convey their approval or disapproval on the bills introduced and subsequently passed.
As per the Constitution, as soon as the Bill is framed, it must be declared in the newspapers, and the general public is asked to comment or express their views democratically.
The Bill may then be amended to incorporate the public opinion in a constructive manner and then be introduced in the Parliament by ministers or private members.
This step is totally absent in the current context.
As per the current process – the IAS officials sit and ponder on the Bill, the Bill is then introduced in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, passed by the ministers without having much in terms of knowledge and neither much discussion on the pro and the cons of the Bill but it still becomes an Act or Law.
Nowhere in this entire process is the Bill actually contemplated upon; the ministers that stand in pro of the Bill in most cases do not even deliberate on the finer points or aspects of the Bill. In most cases, it is the prevailing political party that has sought to introduce the Bill; it becomes almost necessitate for the ruling party’s ministers to stand in support of the Bill introduced.
It must be highlighted here that many of these IAS personnel have never read or understood the Constitution themselves. Still, they play and draft bills that have a huge impact on the country and its citizens.
Therefore, it can only be stated that the reason why there are so many problems that are being presently faced by the country is primarily that the process of making laws is altered, and without taking the viewpoints, the laws are being made.
Parliament’s Constituent Power
Amendment of the Constitution, i.e., the process of any addition, variation, or repeal of any part of the Constitution by the Parliament, falls under the Parliament’s constituent powers. This procedure is very well laid out in Article 368 – which requires that each house of the Parliament must pass an amendment bill by a majority of the total membership of that house and requires at least two–thirds of the members present and voting for the same.
A majority must approve certain amendments that pertain to the Constitution’s federal and judicial aspects of state legislatures.
However, the basic structure of the Indian Constitution cannot be altered or destroyed through constitutional amendments under the constituent powers of the Parliament. It must undergo judicial review by the Supreme Court.
Parliament in its constituent capacity cannot delegate its function of amending the Constitution to another legislature by itself in its ordinary legislative capacity, after the 24th Amendment.
What is the difference between a Bill and an Act?
A legislative proposal is brought before either house of the Parliament of India in the form of a Bill. A Bill is basically the draft of the legislative proposal that becomes an Act of Parliament when both Parliament houses pass it, and it is assented to by the President.
As soon as the Bill is framed, it must be published in the newspapers, and the general public is asked to comment in a democratic manner. As per the public opinion, the Bill may be amended and then introduced in the Parliament either by ministers or by private members. The bills introduced by the ministers are called Government Bills, and those presented by private members are called private members bills.
Any bill that refers to the matters of the general public are called public Bills, and those that are related to a particular person, corporation, or institution are called private Bills.
Furthermore, any bill introduced in the Lok Sabha and that which has not been passed lapses when the Lok Sabha is dissolved; however, any bill pending in the Rajya Sabha never lapses.
How does a Bill become an Act in the Parliament?
A bill is just a draft of a legislative proposal and has to pass through various stages before it can become an Act in Parliament; it has three stages through which the Bill has to pass in one house of the Parliament.
1. The First Reading: Once the Bill is introduced in either house of the Parliament, it becomes a legislative process. Before the Bill can be introduced, it is mandatory for the member – in – charge of the Bill to ask for leave of the house. If the leave is granted, then the Bill is introduced; this is the first stage of the reading of the Bill.
If the motion for the introduction of the Bill is opposed, the speaker may, in his discretion, allow for the opposing member to give an explanatory statement. Hence a dialogue is initiated between those who oppose the Bill and those who are in favor of the Bill. After that, the question is put to the vote of the house.
Publication in the National Gazette
After a Bill is introduced, it must be published in The Gazette of India.
Reference of the Bill to the Standing Committee
The presiding officer of the concerned house can refer the Bill to the Concerned Standing Committee for examination and to prepare a report thereon after the Bill has been introduced.
2. Second Reading: This stage consists of the consideration of the Bill, which has two stages-
The first stage consists of a general debate on the Bill as a whole. At this stage, it is open to the house to refer the Bill to a select committee or the joint committee of the houses. The reason is to express an opinion on the Bill.
The second stage consists of reading the clause–by–clause consideration of the Bill. Discussions and opinions are shared in each clause.
3. Third and the Last Reading – At this stage, the debate on the Bill is confined to either in – support or rejection of the Bill. The Bill is passed by a majority of members present and by voting.
4. Presidents Approval: Once the Bill has been passed in both houses, it is, as per Article 111, sent for President’s Approval. It is up to the President’s discretion to pass or withhold the Bill.
What should be done?
When a law is to be made, the best thing to do is that the draft of the same should be put on the law ministry website at least 60 days prior. Once the draft is in front of the public, there will ensue a debate on the same.
The proposed Bill will be reviewed in the newspapers via articles; media will hold discussions in both pro – and veto of the bill draft. It will enable the citizens of the country to express their opinions and discuss the viability of the proposed Bill.
The same will be discussed in both houses of the Parliament; any good suggestions and opinions will find there way to the government representatives; hence when discussion on the proposed Bill happen in the Parliament, it will ensure an all-round, well – developed discussion debation on the pros – and the cons of the proposed Bill.
As of now, no proper debate on the proposed Bill transpires, and the votes are simply counted in the majority or minority of the proposed Bill.
Hence it is essential that for any bill proposed, the same should be published on the official government website; this will enable and ensure trust by the citizens of the country of the government policies and decisions and will cut down on demonstrations and unacceptability of the proposed Bill, as is the example of the current Farmers protest regarding the Agri Bills.
This will also reduce the petitioning in the Supreme Court. If it is petitioned, then the Supreme Court can say that the same was published 60 days back. This period should have been taken advantage of in case of any dissent against the proposed Bill.
Hence, the government of India should, to cut down on mass protests on Bills passed, publish the same on the official government website such that a proper debate on the proposed bills and laws happens, which will also increase the trust of the citizens of the country in the government processes and policies.