In India, state legislatures sit for minimal days in a year. Several Bills are passed within a few days of their introduction. One of the primary responsibilities of the legislature is to hold the executive accountable and examine potential laws. However, due to the lack of time, it is difficult for the elected members to go through all the bills and discuss them in detail. In addition to lower sittings, state legislatures in India have been criticized for underperforming standing committees, lack of attendance in the Houses, frequent disruptions of the proceedings, and increasing criminalization. Moreover, representatives are failing to take the initiative to maintain the sanctity of the legislature. However, the situation is not all too grim. Commendable efforts have been taken both nationally and internationally to revive legislative practices.
For instance, in India, the committee of secretaries has stipulated that all government bills undergo pre-legislative review. In Uttar Pradesh, the Legislative Assembly gave female lawmakers a full day in the House. It was definitely a day for, by, and about women.
In Indonesia, the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR), also known as the House of Representatives, has effectively integrated a systematic Post-Legislative Scrutiny (PLS) into its committee. The South Korean National Assembly has a long-standing practice of receiving and addressing public petitions, dating back to the Petition Act of 1961 and the revision of the National Assembly Act in 1988. To further enhance this tradition, it introduced the Sinmungo e-petition platform in 2020. Petitions that receive over 100 signatures within 30 days are published, while petitions with over 100,000 signatures in less than 30 days are referred to a special committee for suitable action.
The process of managing amendments can become cumbersome, particularly during prolonged debates, leading to spikes in workload for Senate staff. To overcome this challenge the Italian Senate uses an electronic submission system that runs text clustering algorithms to detect clusters of similar amendments quickly. The Senate is also exploring the potential to identify related laws that may be impacted by the amendments and to find both textual and semantic similarities. In Austria, The EULE Media Monitor managed by the Parliamentary staff curates and visualizes content relevant to legislators and helps MPs save time and resources while staying informed by analyzing social media, news, and expert research across multiple policy areas.
The Kenyan Parliament established the Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence-Informed Oversight and Decision-Making (PC-EIDM) in 2015 to advance Kenya’s development goals. Evidence-based decision-making has allowed for a more efficient allocation of resources and minimized waste. The National Assembly of Zambia embraced modern communication to improve engagement with citizens. To make parliamentary information accessible, the Parliamentary proceedings are streamed live during sessions, and viewers are encouraged to participate in the “Parliamentary Business Update.” The Assembly aims to stay updated with social media by expanding to Facebook and hosting Question & Answer sessions, subject to staffing and policy considerations. The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act, signed by President Julius Maada Bio on January 19, 2023, seeks to address gender inequality in Sierra Leone. The law mandates that a minimum of 30% of parliamentarians, government officials, local councils, diplomats, and civil servants be women.
In Canada, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance takes an active role in shaping the national budget by conducting pre-budget consultations. The committee issues a formal press release to announce the start of the consultation period, inviting Canadians to share their thoughts on targeted topics. The statements given by witnesses during in-person and online consultations are documented and made accessible on the committee’s website for review and consideration.
The Chilean National Congress established the Virtual Congress, an innovative platform for public engagement, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank. The parliamentary administration uploads draft legislation and other topics in plain language for public consultation. Over the first half of 2022, 25 draft laws and 7 questions were posed for public input. With more than 150,000 registered users, it collects and summarizes citizens’ responses and recommendations. The reports are then shared with participants, Members of Parliament, and the public through online channels.
While more such examples can be highlighted from India & abroad, the participants in this session can address the following questions during the discussions:
- Should the opposition be included in determining the House’s daily agenda?
- Should there be a law mandating 100 days of obligatory legislative sitting?
- Do standing committees in legislatures need to be reinstituted?
- How can state legislatures improve the public consultation process while enacting laws?
- How to progress with the “digitization” agenda of legislatures?