This article is written by Janvi Johar, 2nd year student pursuing B.A.LLB (H) from Amity University, Noida.
“There can be no liberty where executive and legislative powers are united in the same person or body.”
In a democracy like India, legislature is one of the 3 pillars of governance. Our constitution envisages three important duties of the legislature i.e law making, accountability& transparency and representation. Thus, legislature has been designed to not only keep a check on the executive. But, also act as representative of the masses.
The alarming question that needs to be considered is what impact did the unprecedented pandemic of COVID- 19 have on the working of the Indian Parliament ?
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
Emergencies are sudden and inevitable. However, countries have a legal mechanism to ensure smooth and proper functioning of government. The 1962 Indo – China War was one of the first emergencies, India faced as a democratic country. The 1971 Indo – Pak War is another example where though India was under a crisis but its parliament was still in action.
In the wake of COVID – 19, the Indian Parliament was adjourned sine die on 23 March 2020. The executive since then has issued around 800 notifications in relation to this pandemic. However, with the absence of the legislature, these decisions have drawn much criticisms on the grounds of being arbitrary. From the announcement of the lockdown to the opening up coal mining and clear sector to private contractors, the opposition complain of being kept in the dark.
Besides this, the non – functioning of parliamentary committees have gained the most criticism. This is because several Members of Parliament has requested to allow parliamentary committees to function virtually. However, their plea has been denied on security reasons.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
On the contrary to the Indian scenario, many countries across the world have adopted the changing need of the hour. Since social distancing is the new normal, many parliaments have either adopted to go virtual or have hybrid sessions.
In a country like Spain, which was one of the most affected opted to continue the working of its parliament virtually with telematic voting. Similarly United Kingdom (UK) opted for hybrid sessions with 50 members being physically present and the rest virtually. Canada, Chile and Maldives are some of the other countries that decided to not stop the functioning of the legislature amidst the COVID – 19 pandemic.
The Indian Constitution is said to be a living document and therefore with the changing need of the hour it is necessary to undergo changes. Till the time, the fear of this pandemic looms large, Indian parliament has to resort to other methods to ensure proper functioning of the government.