Legislation

Taking people’s views

Print edition : June 14, 2013

THE National Advisory Committee’s (NAC) Working Group on Transparency, Accountability and Governance, has released its draft recommendations on a pre-legislative process (PLP). The PLP refers to procedures which will allow people to scrutinise, respond to and influence draft legislation before the formal legislative process begins. It is based on the belief that strengthening any draft legislation before sending the Bill through the parliamentary process will strengthen the process and result in robust legislation and effective implementation because of people’s involvement at every stage.

At present, the only opportunity citizens have to present their views on laws in the making is through MPs or if they are called to the Standing Committees. The NAC notes many instances when citizens had no opportunity to provide feedback on crucial legislation. The NAC found that of the 157 Bills introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha (July 2009 until Budget 2012), 51 were not referred to standing committees. In 2009, only 16 per cent of total parliamentary time was spent on legislative business.

According to the NAC, PLP in respect of the Central government will extend to new laws and amendments to laws, new rules and amendments to rules. It has recommended the issuing of an executive order requiring all Central Ministries to follow the PLP.

The NAC has outlined major steps in the PLP. First, the public authority of the Central Ministry concerned shall publish a statement of essential objectives and principles, on the basis of which it will draft a piece of legislation. The statement shall be kept in the public domain for 45 days and be proactively shared with the public. It shall include justification for the proposed legislation, its essential elements, its broad financial implications, and its likely impact on the environment, fundamental rights, and the lives and livelihood of the people.

Second, the public authority will then publish the draft legislation, and keep it in the public domain for 90 days and proactively share it with the public. Third, the drafts must be accompanied by a set of questions and a standard format on which feedback is solicited from the public. Fourth, a summary of the feedback and comments received from the public should be hosted in the public domain.

Fifth, the public authority shall hold consultations with stakeholders on the proposed legislation. Lastly, the public authority shall submit a copy of the summary of the feedback received from stakeholders (including government departments and the public) and response of the nodal department/Ministry to the Cabinet with the draft legislation, amendment to legislation or ordinance.

According to Nick Robinson of the Centre for Policy Research, the proposal is a step in the right direction, even if there are questions about its enforcement or on the mechanics of implementation.

V. Venkatesan

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