1. How does the legislature act as an instrument for enforcing government accountability? Explain with the help of suitable examples.
सरकारी जवाबदेही को लागू करने के लिए विधायिका एक साधन के रूप में कैसे काम करती है? उपयुक्त उदाहरणों की सहायता से समझाएँ।
Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about the ways in which the legislature acts as an instrument for ensuring government accountability along with suitable examples.
The Constitution provides for the legislature to make laws, the government to implement laws, and the courts to interpret and enforce these laws. While the judiciary is independent from the other two branches, the government is formed with the support of a majority of members in the legislature. Therefore, the government is collectively responsible to Parliament for its actions.
This implies that legislature (i.e. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) can hold the government accountable for its decisions, and scrutinise its functioning.
- Collective responsibility: Executive or Ministerial responsibility to Parliament or what is often termed legislative control over the Executive is based on Article 75- the constitutional provision of collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the popular House of Parliament.
- Threat of ‘no confidence’ over poor policy decision: The House may at any time decide to throw out the Government by a majority vote i.e. if the ruling party loses the support of the majority of the members of the House. Want of parliamentary confidence in the Government may be expressed by the House of the People by passing a substantive motion of no-confidence in the Council of Ministers.
- Financial accountability: Financial control is a critical tool for Parliament’s authority over the executive hence finance committees (Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings) are considered to be particularly powerful. Parliament’s control over the Budget through budget demand, capacity to refuse to vote supplies or of defeating the Government on a financial measure. In first session of 17th Lok Sabha, 11 of the 22 Bills have been passed without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees, which indicate loosing legislative oversight on law making.
- Procedural devices: The various procedural devices like Questions, Calling Attention, Half-an-Hour Discussion, etc. constitute very potent instruments for effecting parliamentary surveillance over administrative action. During Question Hour, MPs may pose questions to ministers related to the implementation of laws and policies by the government. In the 16th Lok Sabha, question hour has functioned in Lok Sabha for 77% of the scheduled time, while in Rajya Sabha it has functioned for 47%. A lower rate of functioning reflects time lost due to disruptions which reduces the number of questions that may be answered orally.
- Reflection of public opinion: Significant occasions for review of administration are provided by the discussions on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address. Specific matters may be discussed through motions on matters of urgent public importance, private members’ resolutions and other substantive motions. Members are free to express themselves and to say what is good for the country and what modifications are required in the existing policies.
In a Parliamentary form of Government, such as we have, the function of Parliament is to legislate, advise, criticise, and ventilate the public grievances; and that of the Executive, to govern.
Under the Constitution of India to maintain accountability,
- The relationship between the Executive and the Parliament should be based on mutual trust and confidence.
- Parliament has almost unlimited right of information and criticism ex post facto and the Executive has likewise unlimited right to initiate and formulate proposals and policies arid to give effect to the approved policies, unfettered and unhindered.
- In essence, Parliament must respect the Executive and the Executive must feel parliamentary influence all the time.
- So long as this equilibrium is maintained, there is every reason to believe that the government of the country will be carried on in accordance with the wishes of the people. The success of our system lies in our having in fact this happy balance and blending.
Nonetheless, there is scope for increasing the accountability and strengthening the control of Parliament over the Executive. One of the proposals which is debated and canvassed is the use of the existing Committees on an increasing scale and extending the Committee System of Parliament. It is suggested that these are needed to oversee administration, to scrutinise the actions of Government, to collect, discuss and report, on actions and performance of Departments of Government.