Tabling a Private Members Bill in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha is a constitutional provision. However, experts tell Mohd Naushad Khan that nowadays only contentious issues are being brought through private members bills. They opine that this provision should not be used as a vote bank tool or to create polarisation or send a message to the respective constituencies.
To many the provision of Private Members Bill is an opportunity to intervene for social justice and welfare. The intention behind pushing it is very important as it should be guided by good intention and not to promote divisive culture for vested personal and party interests no matter how big or small.
According to Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Professor of Eminence, Punjab School of Economics, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, “The introduction of Private Bill in any of the houses of the Indian Parliament is a healthy practice. It certainly provides an opportunity for all members of Parliament, especially for the members of the Opposition parties and more so for the members of small parties. Besides, it might highlight the hitherto ignored issues which may otherwise be of great relevance for certain regional and sub-regional issues. The practice of Private Bill is also upheld in American Senate.
“However, the probability of private bills to be introduced and discussed is very bleak, particularly when there is hardly any inner-party democracy and the Indian political parties nowadays do not have much space for inner-party democracy, difference of opinion and dissent. The historical facts indicate that there have been a few private bills which have been introduced and eventually became Acts. However, the practice of private bills is a healthy democratic tradition but it would carry weight only when there is healthy practice of intra-party and inter-party democracy. Given the fact that the ruling alliance rules the country with the minority votes, the practice is rather more relevant and the limit on the number of private bills needs to be enhanced.”
Amir Ali, who teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU, said, “Private Members Bills, I think, are a significant contributory factor in improving the quality of legislation. The fact that so few have been passed and that the probability of their becoming laws is so low is unfortunate, to say the least. They represent a kind of balance to the often-one-sided legislative agenda of governments. At a time when concerns have been raised about the quality of legislation, often rammed through by governments with limited parliamentary scrutiny, the Private Members Bill becomes even more desirable.”
On the phenomenon of the Private Members Bill, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Assistant Professor of Law, Lucknow said, “It is a parliamentary convention that bills are brought by the government but individual members can also bring a bill on any matter. Since these bills lack government backing, so it is very difficult to get them pass. Till now in our Constitution history only 14 private members bills have been passed. The Constitution allows private members to bring bills because it may happen that due to vote bank politics,the government may not bring bills on certain issues. These issues may be taken up by Private Members Bill.”
Abdul Hafiz added, “But what is happening now is that only contentious issues are being brought to the house through private members bills. This is done just to either create polarisation or sending the message to the respective constituencies. I am all for the provision of private members bill but this provision should not be used as a vote bank tool.”
Here is a list of private members bills previously passed in parliament:
- The Muslim Wakfs Bill, 1952: Introduced by Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kasmi in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1954, the bill provides better governance and administration of Muslim Wakfs.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 1953: Introduced by Raghunath Singh in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1956,it aimed to empower the revisional court to stay or suspend final orders of lower courts.
- The Indian Registration (Amendment) Bill, 1955: Moved by S.C. Samanta in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1956,it aimed at removing the anomaly of recording castes and sub-castes of parties in a deed for registration.
- The Proceedings of Legislature (Protection of Publication) Bill, 1956: Brought by Feroze Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1956,it aimed to protect journalists reporting on parliament proceedings and to define by law the privilege available to publications made in good faith of reports of proceedings of legislatures.
- The Women’s and Children’s Institutions (Licensing) Bill, 1954: Introduced by Rajmata Kamlendu Mati Shah in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1956, the bill was to regulate and license orphanages and other institutions caring for women and children under 18 years of age and to provide for the proper custody, care and training of their inmates.
- The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of National Importance) Bill, 1954: Introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Raghubir Singh, aimed to get certain monuments included in the list of Monuments of National Importance declared in the principal Act of 1951.
- The Hindu Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 1956: Introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Seeta Parmanand, passed in 1956, it says that when both the parties belong to the Hindu religion and are marrying under the Special Marriage Act, they will be governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 1957: Introduced by Subhadra Joshi in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1960,it aimed to remove the hardship caused to a woman in spending money on litigation when her husband commits the offence of bigamy.
- The Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Bill, 1960: Introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Kailash Bihari Lal, passed in 1960, the bill was to provide for the supervision and control of orphanages and other charitable institutions for their better management.
- The Marine Insurance Bill, 1959: Introduced by M.P. Bhargava in the Rajya Sabha, passed in 1963, it modified the law relating to marine insurance.
- The Hindu Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 1962: Introduced in the Lok Sabha by Diwan Chand Sharma, the bill was passed in 1964 to make the right to apply for divorce available to both the parties in case of a decree for judicial separation or restitution of conjugal rights instead of the right being available only to the party who obtained the decree.
- The Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 1964: Introduced by Raghunath Singh in the Lok Sabha, passed in 1964,it was aimed to raise the salaries and allowances of members of parliament in order to meet the high cost of living. Also, to provide air travel facilities.
- The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1967: Introduced by Diwan Chaman Lall in the Rajya Sabha, passed in 1969, it was to enable works of art to be exempted from the penal clauses in the principal Act relating to punishment for obscenity.
- The Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968: Introduced in the Lok Sabha by Anand Narian Mullah, passed in 1970,it aimed to enlarge the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in regard to criminal matters.
[Source: PRS Legislative Research, Parliament of India website and Lok Sabha Secretariat]