State Times
Mahadeep Singh Jamwal

The caption of the article is the taglines of the words of the Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, spoken at the occasion of unfurling the National Flag on the Independence Day 2021 at Supreme Court premises at New Delhi with reference to the enacting of laws in the Parliament. Expressing his concern regarding enacting laws without debate in the Parliament, Justice said that it leaves ambiguity in legislation and leads to a lot of litigation. Parliamentary debate is a fundamental part of democratic lawmaking. In parliament, members’ debate bills before they vote on them. Because debates are public, they provide Members of Parliament (MPs) an opportunity to represent the views of constituents on the floor and give voice to voters’ concerns. The parliamentary discussions and debates are paramount for legislative portrayal because it generates relationships between people and their representatives and also provides an opportunity to discuss government policy, proposed new laws and current issues. Debates and discussions are helpful to make necessary adjustments and amendments to a bill so that it can effectively fulfill its purpose. These can be helpful in Courts while interpreting laws.

The discussions and debates through lights on various problems faced by different sections of society, which are otherwise ignored. We cannot take the harsh commentary of The Chief Justice of India in a lighter vein that ‘Now (it is a) sorry state of affairs. We see a lot of gaps in legislation.

There is a lot of ambiguity in making laws. There is no clarity in the laws. We do not know what purpose the laws are being made at, which is creating a lot of litigation, inconvenience to the public and government and loss to the government.” These remarks of CJI carry our memory to the three ‘Agriculture Laws’: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act that were enacted by Parliament on 27th of September 2020 but invited hue and cry and protests on large scale from farmers community labeling the bills to be against the interests of the farmers. As per claims of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the protests claimed 702 deaths and lasted for 333 days.

The said bills were stayed by Supreme Court on 12 January 2021 and their withdrawal was announced by the Prime Minister in a televised address on 19 November 2021 as such on 1 December 2021, the laws were formally repealed. During the monsoon session of 2021, 20 bills have passed in both Houses of Parliament, either without discussion or minimal, limited to treasury bench MPs speaking on the legislation. The Rajya Sabha has passed nine bills since the House convened on July 19 and clocked nearly 17 minutes per bill for discussion. The Lok Sabha passed 11 bills, each on an average talking about eight minutes. Most of these bills were passed without discussion. The CJI in his address carried us to the debates of the gone by days in the Houses that used to be very wise and constructive.

The Houses used to debate threadbare any legislation which they were making. Lawmakers used to discuss elaborately what would be the consequences of any law under enactment, how it will affect the working class. Same way different laws were discussed and deliberated. Elaborate debates in the Houses always brought clarity to the object and intent behind legislations or amendments to existing laws.

The CJI recalled the contribution of the legal community, led by lawyers such as: Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Babu Rajendra Prasad to the freedom struggle and reminded advocates that the first Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and assemblies were filled with lawyers active in public life. Presently we find law breakers under Representation of Peoples Act as well as heinous crimes under Indian Penal Code are law makers.

Traced out from ADR data, we find that the percentage of tainted in Parliament is ever increasing.

When 2009 Lok Sabha was having 26 per cent tainted MPs, in 2014 it increased to 34 per cent, and nearly half of the newly-elected Lok Sabha members in 2019 have criminal charges against them, a 26 per cent increase as compared to 2014, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Similarly at present in Rajya Sabha 71 (31 per cent) have declared criminal cases against themselves and 37 (16 per cent) have declared serious criminal cases. Nothing more can be shameful for the democracy of the country.

We well remember how the Supreme Court five-member bench struck down the NJAC Act and deemed it as unconstitutional in 2015. The Supreme Court, on 20th July 2021, in Union of India vs Rajendra N Shah, struck down most parts of the 97th Constitutional Amendment. In 2022, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, declared as unconstitutional Sections 3(2) and 5 introduced through the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act of 2016. In 2021, the Centre told the Supreme Court that independence of the judiciary cannot be invoked to test the validity of a law passed by the Parliament as a matter of policy. At the same we come across that in 2020, the present incumbent CJI has said that ‘High Courts Have Power to Strike down Central Acts’ while hearing a petition challenging ‘Epidemic Act’ and directing the petitioner challenging ‘Epidemic Act’ to move the High Court.

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