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Reporting Parliament & Laws And Policies – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship (LPPYF), Day 15 session report on 'Reporting Parliament & Laws and Policies'.

Session Report

Samprikta Banerjee

A Two Month Online National Summer School and Immersive Legal Awareness & Action
Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, Law and Public Policy Youth
Fellowship (LPPYF) was conducted by IMPRI, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New
Delhi from 12 June to 11 August.

On Day 15, there were two sessions lined up, the first one being, Reporting Parliament &
Laws and Policies by Mr Himanshu Shekhar, Senior Editor (Political and Current Affairs),
New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV India); Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI. He started his
session by explaining how the subject of his discussion is essentially centered on how the
parliament of India works, the centrality of the Indian Parliament in Indian Politics and his
own experience of covering and reporting on the Parliament for the last 22 years.

His Journey: How He Started Covering the Parliament

He commenced the session with his own life story about how it all began. He stated that he
came to Delhi as a 17-year-old boy with a dream of becoming a sports journalist and he chose
the subject of English as his undergraduate major as he thought that improving language
skills was essential food to his stated dream. He also wanted to become a writer so English
Honors looked like the best option for him.

However, during that period, he took membership in the American Central Library which led
him to study various journalists, their journeys and their works. All of this led him to plan his
post-graduation in Political Science, to pursue which he went to JNU where he actually got
the first opportunity to study Indian Politics, Political Theories, the History of Indian Politics,
and how India as a nation was formed through a long freedom struggle. Then, as he had
dreamt, he went on to make his career in journalism but this time focusing on Indian Politics.

His first session covered in Parliament was the 2001 Monsoon Session and since he has had
the privilege to report on almost all the important sessions that happened in the last 22 years.
This helped him see the nuances of Indian Politics with his own eyes and drew a clear picture
of how laws in India were made and implemented.

India is a Complex Democracy

To support this statement, he gave the example of a process of getting input from
stakeholders on the Personal Data Protection Bill initiated in 2017, with it becoming the first
draft of legislation to regulate social media in India. To give the audience proof of the
complexity, he stated that this process was still a work in progress in the current year, 2023,
and when a Bill was passed 5 years later in the Parliament, the GOI decided to withdraw it
and it was decided that in the next session, a new Digital Personal Data Operation would be
tabled.

This complexity of the management of India as a country and his knack for knowing about
how it is managed and governed with such a whopping population drove him towards his
current profession. He can hence only describe his journey as a great one as he understood
how through conversations, dialogues, talks, meetings, etc., consensus can be achieved.

How Parliament Functions

There are 2 houses and there are designated schedules fixed for different kinds of
parliamentary deliberations. Rajya Sabha starts with a section called matters of public
importance and goes on for an hour. This is one of such platforms that members of
Parliament have that if they want to raise contemporary issues can do so if Parliament was in
session today.

The system of accountability is in place too wherein, once a matter of public importance is
raised, the chair often asks the concerned minister to respond to these questions. He used the
recent flood situation in Delhi to explain the working.

Then there is the Question Answer Session, also known as the Question Hour where, MPs 15
days before the Parliament start submitting questions related to different issues,
constituencies, etc., are supposed to come prepared and answer these questions. Around 75
questions are selected, and ministers are expected to respond along with responding to
supplementary questions that are often allowed by the chair that the members of parliament
can raise if they are not satisfied with the answers.

He further advises all young professionals, and early career professionals to start reading and
working on the parliament website (Lok Sabha Digital and Rajya Sabha Digital) which
contains the most authoritative document that India has and are official documents tabled on
the floor of the house in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The Parliament officially starts at 11 and ends at 6 p.m. with a one-hour long lunch break in
between, which is often taken until and unless there is a matter of very urgent political or
public importance. Owing to the normal working hours of 6-7 hours a day, there are different
parliamentary and standing committees that have been set up which actually are the primary
institutions playing the most crucial role in building political consensus on most complex
issues. He took the example of extensive GST meetings held to demonstrate this aspect of the
Parliament.

Hence, all those legislations requiring detailed examination and deliberation are
transferred to these Parliamentary Standing Committees or parliamentary Select Committees
or parliamentary Joint Committees depending on what the chair or the Lok Sabha Speaker
actually decides.

Some Case Studies

It is the most important parliamentary committee with the primary responsibility to examine
and scrutinize the Government’s Finances. They can ask or summon any GOI official and
seek clarification and data on all information related to the implementation of a law or a
policy by a government ministry primarily the Finance Ministry, MOCI, etc., in this case.

He took up the case study of the preparation of detailed reports to be formulated on the aspect
of Cyber Crime and Cyber Security and explained the process of how different Committees
are at play in the process before the matter is actually tabled at a Parliament Session. He also
briefly touched upon how Bills introduced in the Lok Sabha are sent for approval from the
Rajya Sabha and Bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha are sent for approval from the Lok
Sabha if the government so decides.

How a Law is Made in India?

He first explicitly mentions that it is a long-drawn-out process. The process starts with the
setting up of an expert committee or a government commission seeking public input. He took
the example of a Uniform Civil Code wherein, the law commission actually opened a website
and sought inputs from stakeholders as to what should be included in the UCC and more than
19 lakh suggestions have arrived regarding the same.

After the inputs of the public are received through the platforms opened by these committees,
these are seriously examined and it takes many months at times to actually wrap their heads
around all the suggestions, and once the concerned nodal ministry receives the report of the
expert committee or a commission on a given proposed draft legislation then the concerned
nodal ministry starts working on the draft that needs to be ready.

The next stage is once a broad draft blueprint of the law is prepared, the process of inter-ministerial consultation starts between different ministries. After these consultations, all the inputs that the nodal ministry receives from different stakeholder Ministries are examined and the inputs and additional inputs are weaved in after removing details that are unnecessary.

Then finally a draft bill is formulated and put before the Union Cabinet for approval which is
headed by the Prime Minister of India, and after the cabinet approves the draft, the draft goes
to the business advisory committee of the parliament. It then decides on which day the
government will introduce a particular draft bill in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.

After this, the standing committee may suggest amendments to the bill and a round of
examination follows determining what needs to stay in the bill and what needs to be removed,
and once that is done then again the Cabinet approval step follows along with re-presentation
in the Parliament.

Conclusion

He concludes with establishing the fact that India’s democracy is participatory in nature.
However, the centrality of the Parliament prevails because all approvals, revisions and
amendments are done by that body. Parliament has the final say as to what to include and
what to exclude, which stakeholder to choose and whom to not and how a law should be
structured.
The session ended with an interactive Q&A round with informative and interactive
discussions.

Acknowledgement: Samprikta Banerjee is a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here.

Read more session reports on Law and Public Policy events conducted by IMPRI:
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