Indian Context: Parliamentary Ethics

G. L. Batra, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana

The credibility of Parliament and impeccable integrity of its members are imperative for the success of democracy[1]. The Conference of presiding Officers, Chief Ministers etc. on 25th November 2001, recommended that Code of Conduct may be suitably incorporated in the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha so also for the respective Legislative Assemblies. The Committee on Ethics of the 13th Lok Sabha was headed by the late Shri Chandrashekhar, former PM as its Chairman.

Got ethics? Are you ethical question. Handwriting on a napkin wiPhoto Source: BigStock

The Committee thereafter decided to appoint a Sub Committee to deliberate on the issues regarding actions to be taken on the actions recommended by the Committee in their first report. “The Committee are of the considered view that a member’s probity in public life is the fundamental precept upon which rests the credibility of a parliamentary democracy. The Committee also feel that mere framing of rules regarding ethical norms cannot bring about orderly behaviour among members and there is, therefore, an urgent need of the realisation that unruly behaviour by members does not go down well with the general public. Hence, an atmosphere has to be created in which orderly behaviour by the members pays in the long run.”

Parliamentary democracy is the most respected way of governance since the mantle rests upon the elected representatives of the people. As an elected representative of the people, a member of parliament’s status is an exalted one. While privileges are given to members to enable them to perform their Parliamentary duties unfettered, these privileges also entail certain obligations. A dignified conduct is one of the primary obligations of a member of parliament. During the early days of our Parliament, Members of Parliament commanded respect and Houses of Parliament and Legislatures were considered temples of democracy. It is regrettable that this is no longer the position. With corruption rampant among a number of Legislators, their criminal antecedents and unruly behaviour in the house, the reputation of legislators has suffered badly. As a result, the general public has started looking at Legislators with contempt to a certain extent. In short, the credibility of Parliament is also at stake because of the misdoings of a few. Therefore, the need of the hour is to strengthen the credibility, integrity and sense of responsibility of this democratic institution of paramount significance. The time has now come for soul searching by legislatures themselves and introspection. The culture of ethics has to be evolved and the sense of discipline and responsibility should come from within. The process of correction of the present day malaise of disorderliness which has afflicted our political system is to come from within. This is the exact purpose of the introspection by the legislatures themselves. Besides, the very process of introspection would give a message that the legislatures are themselves endeavouring to restore the eroding credibility of our legislative system.

[1] Paper on future course of action of the committee on ethics for consideration of the sub-committee, Shri V. M. Sudheeran, M.P., Second report of the Committee on Ethics (Thirteenth Lok Sabha), Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi 2002


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