Intervention on the theme Inclusive Parliaments: the role of the Speaker in supporting emerging procedures and practices embracing the changing face and needs of the Parliament, 25th CSPOC, Canada, 6-10 January 2020.
Hon’ble Chairperson and Distinguished Delegates,
· It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address the distinguished Speakers of the Commonwealth Parliaments here today. We stand for democracy and participation. We are, perhaps, assigned the most important role, where our rulings decide, to a great extent, the inclusion, representation and participation in parliamentary democracy.
· As a well-known saying goes, vision for a nation emanates from the Parliament. For Parliaments therefore, planning for the future or facing the future, means many things. It means responding to the pressures of a rapidly changing society and global system, while retaining what is distinctive about the country’s tradition. It means being open to the ongoing reforms in their own procedures, so that these are made apposite to times. It can also mean engaging in long-term thinking about the country’s future in a pro-active way, rather than simply reacting to initiatives placed before it by the Government.
· Back home, in India, though the rules and regulations are framed by the respective Houses of our Parliament, their correct interpretation and proper application fully rest with the Speaker and the Chairman, as the case may be. The Speaker, who not merely by enforcing the rules but by his sagacious counsel, tact and persuasive skills, ensures that voices of all sections of the House are heard with an open mind.
· During the deliberations in the House, whenever the situation demands or a clarification is sought on a point of order, the Speaker is required to interpret the rules, study past precedents and decisions, give directions and pronounce rulings after taking into consideration the provisions of the Constitution, the established parliamentary practices, customs, conventions and precedent. Many a time the Speaker has to use discretionary powers. The Speaker’s ruling reflects the sense of the House, prevailing at that point of time.
· Over the years, during the working of our Parliament, successive Speakers have laid down several rules, regulations and directions that have contributed significantly in the growth of our parliamentary practices and procedures. Several of the rulings delivered by my predecessors were of far-reaching importance in the running of not only of the House but even of other democratic institutions in the country. When they presided over the Lok Sabha, the country would witness their unique qualities as the institution-builders.
· In this context, looking from a different perspective, I believe that our efforts towards strengthening democracy or its institutions should be closely linked to the capacity building of the representatives of people, who are duty-bound to raise matters of public importance in the House. So to accommodate their demands and also to be in tune with the changing face and need of the House, my humble efforts have been to bring in certain procedural changes in the existing Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the current i.e. Seventeenth Lok Sabha.
· During the two Sessions that we had so far of the new Lok Sabha, maximum members were given opportunity to participate in the business of the house and in the process, many young members and political parties having representation of only one member have been benefitted. I am happy to share with you all here that more than 2000 matters of Urgent Public Importance were raised during these sessions.
· Similarly, as yet another step towards capacity building of our members, a practice of holding Briefing Sessions on important Legislative Business before the House has been recently initiated. The objective is to improve the awareness of the members on the legislative issues before the House and thereby, facilitate a good debate and discussion.
· Before I conclude, I would like to mention that in our endeavours to make our Parliament more inclusive and democratic, we believe and follow in true spirit what Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, had once said and I quote, Civilization is the encouragement of differences. Through this, I must say, we evolve, settle and move on.