LS Speaker Om Birla Interview: ‘Chief Justice Raman’s remark (on lack of quality parliamentary debate during law making) is not correct. This is contrary to reality. Reality is on record which cannot lie’

Since 2019 in the Lok Sabha, there is a struggle between the ruling party BJP and the opposition on many issues. However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who is completing three years of his term, says that the lower house of Parliament has now become more effective and responsive as an institution. In an interview with The Indian Express, Birla dismissed Chief Justice of India NV Ramana’s statement that the lack of quality parliamentary debate during law making has led to a spurt in litigation in the courts, saying it “Contrary to reality”. Part:

You have completed three years as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. What is your biggest achievement so far?

For me, the fact that every issue was debated for a long time is the biggest achievement in the course of three years. Discussions were held for every important law beyond the stipulated time. In fact, the number of people discussing important bills has almost doubled during the last three years. Even for the Question Hour, the average number of questions asked is now six as against four earlier. During the Zero Hour, 4648 cases were raised in the last three years. When you talk about the issues raised under Rule 377, 92-93 per cent of them have received responses. If you take the case of the discussion on the Budget or the Motion of Thanks, even more MPs participated in them. You look at the productivity or participation or even the response of the government – the performance of the 17th Lok Sabha has excelled.

However, often in the Lok Sabha, sometimes even the ruling party complains that the ministers do not respond properly. It has happened many times that you pulled up some ministers for this. can you do something about it?

When it comes to giving satisfactory answers to questions during the Question Hour, a member can express his displeasure at the answer given by the Minister. He can tell the Speaker that his question has not been answered. It will always be my endeavor to give a comprehensive and expected reply to the Minister. Whenever a member raises such an issue, I signal to the Treasury Bench that the MP is not happy with the reply. My job is to see that the members get satisfactory answers from the government and I have always tried to ensure that for them. There have been many occasions when I have asked ministers to answer questions correctly.

An all-round effect is increasing day by day that the importance of Parliament as an institution has diminished considerably. What’s your take on this?

Look, I just said how the productivity and performance of the Lok Sabha has improved.

The executive being accountable to the Parliament – this is the cornerstone of our democracy. However, there appears to be austerity on the part of the executive to maintain it. For example, recently there was a suggestion that the interest earned in MPLAD Fund would go back to the Consolidated Fund. It was a motion without any discussion and some MPs have pointed it out.

Parliament does not interfere in the decisions taken by the executive. But when the executive tries to interfere with the role of the legislature, it is my duty to see that it does not happen.

Read | From IBC Amendment to Juvenile Justice Amendment: Amidst the noise, Parliament clears important bills without debate
The Supreme Court has made a scathing comment on the declining standards of law making. It has said that the laws are being churned out without due deliberation, discussion or observation. your answer?

I heard this too. I have tried to extend the time for debate on the Bills. I want to say that every Bill is discussed in the House. You can see the record, it can’t be wrong. The country should see the record. The observation made by the Chief Justice (NV Ramana) is not correct. This is contrary to reality. Reality is on record which cannot lie. The reality is that the Indian Parliament has done more work, it has adopted a better democratic system and the executive has become more accountable.

The issue of the government’s reluctance to send the bill for the Standing Committee to examine is yet to be resolved. Why?

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs suggests which bill goes to the Standing Committee. I think the good tradition of discussing Bills within the House has now been established. The government has also supported it. Many bills have gone to the Standing Committee. Why are laws made? There are rules for the law making process. At times the government feels that delaying a particular bill will not do any good to the country and expresses its desire to get the bills passed quickly. It then suggests that the House may last longer, but the bill may be passed. Then the bills are discussed and passed.

After this government came to power, several opposition parties said that it was not involved in discussions with them. There are times when there is no all-party meeting before the start of a session. Do you think the government should do more for better floor coordination?

Whenever there is a session, I try very hard to see that the House runs smoothly with everyone’s cooperation. If there is any obstruction, I call the ruling party and opposition leaders to find a way out. Sometimes we get the solution and sometimes we don’t get the solution. It is also my responsibility to see that the obstacles are removed and the House runs smoothly. I do this regularly.

How do you see the dominance of Hindi in Parliament where English speaking ministers are also directed to speak in Hindi. There have been many such instances in the House when MPs from Tamil Nadu had to get into heated arguments with the Treasury Bench on this?

In the House, even 30 minutes before, if an MP gives a notice to speak in the language of his choice – from the 24 official languages ​​in Parliament – ​​we have translators to translate it into English and Hindi. It can be made easy. I cannot comment on whether the minister should reply in Hindi or in English. It is their right to choose any one of them.

But it has been a common practice that if a non-Hindi speaking MP asks for an answer in English, the minister who is fluent in English will be oblivious.

I can only act on the basis of rules and procedures. The rules state that questions can be answered in any one of the two languages. It is the choice of the minister to oblige the MPs.

Many MPs have expressed concern about going paperless. He has talked about poor connectivity inside the House, delay in receiving bills on time which hinders their correct assessment and efforts to correct the government.

I have already directed that the hard copy should be made available to the members on time. That concern has already been addressed.

Firoz Varun Gandhi writes. Why is there no debate in Parliament?
In each session, you will have to deal with issues of privilege. Do you think there should be proper guidelines on what constitutes an issue of privilege?

It is never codified. When the matter comes to me, I refer it to the committee and the committee decides on it. Sometimes, even if the committee suggests that it is not an issue of privilege, I may ask for more details and demand action. I also have the right to reject the proposals sent by the Committee of Privileges. But whenever any obstacle arises in the performance of his duties of an MP, it becomes an issue of privilege. But when the matter is related to a criminal case, if anyone is arrested, the information of the arrest has to be given to the Speaker within 24 hours. We can check if there is no such information. If it is felt that there was a deliberate attempt not to inform the House, then it also creates an issue of privilege.

What do you think about the two MLAs being denied voting rights in the Rajya Sabha elections?

Firstly it was an issue that happened in the state. When such issues come to the fore, the Presiding Officer can raise them during the meetings of the Presiding Officers. Also, it was the decision of the court and we cannot interfere in it. When an arrest occurs, the court decides on it. Parliament cannot do anything about it.

You have also suggested that the existing anti-defection law has to be changed. But the presiding officers don’t seem to be on the same page.

Many suggestions came during the meeting of the presiding officers. We have put forth suggestions during the Dehradun conference. The main issue in this is to limit the power of the presiding officers to decide on disqualification on defection. Some said that it should be time bound, while some said that such incidents raise many questions on our impartiality. A committee of presiding officers submitted its report but there was no consensus on their views. We will discuss this again. It is true that we have to look at the circumstances and timing of the law and if it fits in this particular time. We have to constantly update the rules and laws according to the changes in the society.