The need for a proper Pre- Legislative Consultation Policy
- In 2014, the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy was adopted, mandating a host of rules, including that whenever the Government makes any law, it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days.
- 227 of the 301 legislation proposed in Parliament since the policy's start have been introduced without any previous consultation.
- At least 40 of the 74 documents published in the public domain for comment did not meet the 30-day requirement.
Origin of PLCP
- The PLCP was created in response to the National Advisory Council's (2013) and the National Commission to Review the Constitution's Workings' comprehensive recommendations (2002).
- Its goal was to establish a formalised place for public engagement in law making procedures.
What is the policy?
- The PLCP 2014 requires the government to post a draught version of any new laws (bills, rules, regulations, etc.) in the public domain for at least 30 days.
- A note describing the law in simple English and supporting the idea, its financial implications, influence on the environment and basic rights, a research on the bill's social and financial consequences, and so on should also be posted, according to the regulation.
- The appropriate departments should publish a summary of all input received on the circulating draft.
Importance of PLCP
- During the early phases of lawmaking, this policy offers a venue for people and key stakeholders to interact with policymakers in the executive branch.
- Protests in the recent past over legislation such as agricultural laws, the RTI Amendment Act, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, and others have all revealed that important stakeholders and the general public are dissatisfied since they were not consulted during the formulation of such laws.
- Public dialogues improve openness and accountability, and they may lead to the formation of an informed government in which citizens are viewed as partners rather than subjects.
- During the 16th Lok Sabha (May 2014 to May 2019) 186 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 142 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
- During the 17th Lok Sabha (June 2019 to present), 115 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 85 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
- The tentative schedule for the winter session indicates that a total of 29 bills are listed for introduction and passing. Of these, 17 saw no prior consultation while from the 12 that were placed in the public domain, only six adhered to the 30-day deadline.
Why is implementation difficult?
- Despite the fact that all government agencies must follow the directives of an authorised policy, the lack of a legislative or constitutional authority to do so has diluted its impact.
- Following the policy's successful implementation, executive procedural rules such as the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures and the Handbook on Writing Cabinet Notes must be amended.
- The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs ignored the Ministry of Law and Justice request to include PLCP provisions in the Handbook of Parliamentary Procedures during a subsequent modification to the manual.
- Pre-legislative consultation should be prioritised in the Cabinet, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and other legislative procedures.
- Ministers should also be compelled to provide an addendum note on the details of the pre-legislative consultation when introducing the bill.
- A statutory and constitutional promise that gives individuals the opportunity to engage in pre-legislative discussions might be a game changer.