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Delhi, Sikkim assemblies met fewer than 10 days in 2021, Kerala tops at 61 days — PRS survey

State & UT assemblies passed more than 500 Bills last year, but about half were passed within a day of their introduction, says report. Assemblies sat for just 21 days on average.

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New Delhi: Twenty-nine state and Union territory legislative assemblies met for an average of only 21 days last year, with Delhi and four others tallying less than 10 days, according to an independent research institute.

Although 500-plus Bills were passed in this period, the catch was that 44 per cent of them were cleared within a day of their introduction in the House, said the Annual Review of State Laws 2021 by Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research. On average, 21 Bills were passed by each assembly last year.

Like Parliament, an assembly usually meets thrice — Budget, Monsoon and Winter sessions — a year. In 2020, PRS reported, the average number of sitting days was just 17. This might be due to the impact of the Covid pandemic and consequent lockdown, the report said.

In January, The Hindu had published an analysis that nine assemblies, which were randomly selected, had worked for 11 to 43 days in 2021. In comparison, Parliament sat for 58 days in 2021

Education (21 per cent), taxation (12 per cent), local governance (10 per cent), and land and law and order (4 per cent each) were the main categories of the Bills passed by the assemblies last year.

Data for the survey was gathered from six types of sources, including RTI responses, gazette publications and documents received through direct communication with legislature research officials or secretariats.

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Best and the worst performers

While Kerala fared the best with 61 days, Karnataka cleared the greatest number of Bills with 48 to its tally. It was the second consecutive year that Karnataka had passed the most Bills; the state had passed 55 Bills in 2020. With just two Bills passed, Delhi fared the worst last year.

Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint

When it comes to the number of sittings last year, Odisha and Karnataka came second and third at 43 and 40 days, respectively. In contrast, Nagaland, Delhi, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, and Tripura logged less than 10 days. In total, there were 17 states and UTs where the assemblies sat for less than 20 days.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) had suggested in 2002 that state legislatures with less than 70 members should meet annually for at least 50 days, while at least 90 days were set for the rest, the PRS report said.

“Some states (Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh) have tried to ensure a minimum number of sitting days through the rules and procedures of their respective assemblies,” it added.

However, many failed to meet the target. For example, Uttar Pradesh tallied 17 days last year, compared to the minimum of 90 days. Similarly, the lawmakers of Punjab assembled for only 11 days compared to the stipulated 40. Odisha also felt short with 42 days rather than the prescribed 60.

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Bills passed at break-neck speed

Another trend that was noticed is that state legislatures didn’t allow the smaller number of sittings to affect the passage of Bills, often clearing them on the very day they were introduced in the House.

Uttar Pradesh logged 17 days, yet passed 38 Bills. Similarly, Punjab and Maharashtra cleared 35 Bills each in 14 and 15 days, respectively.

Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab and Bihar were among the eight states that tabled and passed all their Bills on the same day. “The outgoing Punjab assembly introduced and passed 16 Bills in its last sitting,” the report said.

In contrast, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, and Rajasthan took more than five days to pass over half the Bills presented in their legislatures.

Overall, around 40 Bills (only 10 per cent) were referred to various standing committees for scrutiny after their introduction in the House, according to the report.

Despite having the highest number of sittings, Kerala promulgated 144 ordinances in 2021, the report said. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra came second and third with 20 and 15 ordinances, respectively.

Ordinances are a device used by governments to bring in laws when the House is not in session.

Vijay Kumar Sinha, Speaker of the Bihar assembly — which met for 32 days last year — told ThePrint, “It is the government which decides how many days the assembly will sit in a session. But this (less sittings) is a cause of concern for everyone as it has gone down over the years… We need to increase the number of days of sitting, and are working to increase the productivity of the assembly.”

Tripura Speaker Ratan Chakraborty acknowledged the need to do more as the state assembly met for only seven days last year. “In a recent meeting of state Speakers with the Lok Sabha Speaker, this issue figured (in the discussion). We want to give more time to the opposition to debate bills. We are working to increase productivity of the assembly,” he added.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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