Private member bill
Polity & Governance
3rd Jan, 2019
- Earlier Rajya Sabha MP and RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha plans to introduce a private member bill on Ram temple in an attempt to get parliamentary sanction for the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya.
- In 2015, Rajya Sabha passed The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, a private member’s Bill piloted by Tiruchi Siva of the DMK. The bill with 27 amendments has been passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2018.
- Freedom of Literature Bill 2018 introduced by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has suggested far-reaching amendments to various statutes to make it difficult for governments to ban books and to provide safeguards for authors and scholars from arbitrary and exhausting legal battles.
- The bill puts on the government the onus of explaining why a book needs to be banned and removes the government’s right to ban books indefinitely.
- The purpose of the Bill is to amend and remove the existing provisions of the laws which can be misused to harass authors by vested interests.
Who are private members and what is private member bill in the parliament?
- Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member. Parliament’s key role is to debate and make laws. Both Ministers and private members contribute to the law making process. Bills introduced by Ministers are referred to as government bills. They are backed by the government, and reflect its legislative agenda.
- Private member’s bills are piloted by non-Minister MPs. Their purpose is to draw the government’s attention to what individual MPs see as issues and gaps in the existing legal framework, which require legislative intervention.
What is procedure for admitting private member bill in parliament?
- The admissibility of a private member’s Bill is decided by the Rajya Sabha Chairman and in the case of Lok Sabha, it is the Speaker; the procedure is roughly the same for both Houses.
- The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction; the House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.
- Up to 1997, private members could introduce up to three Bills in a week. This led to a piling up of Bills that were introduced but never discussed; Chairman K R Narayanan, therefore, capped the number of private member’s Bills to three per session.
- While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays.
- Private member’s Bills have been introduced and discussed in Rajya Sabha on 20 days in the last three years.
What happens after the discussion of the private member bill in the parliament?
- Upon conclusion of the discussion, the Member piloting the Bill can either withdraw it on the request of the Minister concerned, or he may choose to press ahead with its passage.
- In the latter case, the Bill is put to vote and, if the private member gets the support of the House, it is passed. In 1977, Rajya Sabha passed a private member’s Bill to amend the Aligarh Muslim University Act. The Bill then went to the sixth Lok Sabha, where it lapsed with the dissolution of the House in 1979.
- The last time a private member’s Bill was passed by both Houses was in 1970. This was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968. Fourteen private member’s Bills — five of which were introduced in Rajya Sabha — have become law so far.
Why only 14 private bills become laws despite more than 200 such bills introduced in Parliament?
- 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.
Which are some important laws that were introduced as private member bills?
- 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-
- 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.