Rajya Sabha MP and RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha plans to introduce a private member bill on Ram temple in an attempt to test the opposition.
New Delhi: Nominated Rajya Sabha MP and RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha declared Thursday that he would bring in a private member bill on the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya, clearly an attempt to test the opposition.
As it turns out, this may end up being a test for Sinha instead, given that only 14 private member bills have become laws since the first Lok Sabha in 1952, and none in nearly five decades.
According to data made available by PRS Legislative Research, a think tank, only 14 such bills have been passed by both Houses since 1952, the most — six — being in 1956 under Jawaharlal Nehru’s government.
The last private member bill to become a law was way back in 1970. Most recently, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015, but remains stuck in the Lok Sabha. Brought in by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, the bill has hence, not been converted into a law.
However, it isn’t just the passage of private member bills that has a dismal record. The discussion of such bills since 1999 — when 13th Lok Sabha (data prior to that not available) was formed — has an equally dim record. Of the total of 2,042 such bills introduced in the past two decades, only 49 were taken up for discussion — a mere 2.4 per cent.
The maximum time spent discussing private member bills in the past two decades was in the 13th Lok Sabha — a little more than 62 hours. However, it is in the current Lok Sabha that the most number of such bills — 999 — have been introduced since 1999.
What is a private member bill?
Any bill introduced by a member other than a minister is known as a private member bill. Such bills are tabled on Fridays when Parliament is in session.
While any MP can introduce a private member bill, it is difficult to get the bill passed for a number of reasons. These bills get low priority, with both Houses allotting a fixed day and limited time slot for these bills, thus providing little time for them to be taken up for discussion.
Further, the government’s backing becomes a must for such a bill to be passed in both Houses given the numbers are stacked in favour of the ruling party. Often, governments also don’t want to be seen as ceding legislative space to individual MPs.
The first private member bill to become a law was the Muslim Wakfs Bill, 1952. Aimed to provide better governance and administration of wakfs, it was introduced by Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kasmi in the Lok Sabha and was passed in 1954.
Some other private member bills that have become laws include the Proceedings of Legislature (Protection of Publication) Bill, 1956, brought by Feroze Gandhi in the Lok Sabha; the Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 1964, introduced by Raghunath Singh in the Lok Sabha and the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1967 introduced by Diwan Chaman Lall in the Rajya Sabha.
With the Supreme Court stating an appropriate bench will sit in January to decide when hearings on the Ayodhya land dispute case will take place, the ruling BJP government has come under increasing pressure to act on its own. Clearly trying to be artful by putting the ball in the opposition’s court, Sinha has talked about introducing the bill in Rajya Sabha where the NDA is short of numbers. This, thus, puts the onus on opposition parties to ensure its passage.
Parliament is expected to convene for the winter session next month.
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