In the context of diverse views on Codification of Privileges of Legislatures and their Members, this crucial issue will be debated by the Whips of Parliament and Legislatures and the Ministers of Parliamentary Affairs of all states during a two day meet beginning on Monday i.e October 13, 2014 in South Goa. Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu will inaugurate the ‘All India Conference of Whips’ which will also consider, inter alia, proposals for allocating one full day a week for Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions during the sessions of Parliament and Legislatures of States/UTs and evolving a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament and Legislatures of States to enhance the public perception of and credibility of law making institutions. This Conference is being organized by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
The eight point Agenda for the Conference include: Codification of Privileges, Taking up Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions for a full day every week, Code of Conduct for Legislators, Ensuring Discipline and Decorum in the Houses, Floor Management in the House and the Increased Role and Accountability of Whips, Ways and Means of Ensuring Continued Presence of Members in the Houses and Increasing the Volume of Transaction of Business, Professional Training and Research Assistance for Legislators and e-Parliament/Legislatures through Increased Use of Information and Communication Technology.
Chief Whips and Whips from across the country and Ministers of Parliamentary Affairs Ministers will deliberate on the issue of Codification of Privileges of Legislatures and their Members, in respect of which the Constitution of India tasked the Parliament and Legislatures of States to define such privileges from time to time, which is still to be done. Over the years, a view has emerged against such codification. This issue acquired significance with academia and media demanding codification of privileges to end uncertainty in the matter and enable transparent functioning of Legislatures.
Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions invite the attention of the Governments to issues of larger socio-economic concern that for some reasons, may not be priority for the Governments but warrant reform besides enabling free discussion without any directives issued by the political parties. This provision has enabled over the years, some important enactments like –The Muslim Wakfs Act, 1954, Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls, Right of Parliament to Amend Fundamental Rights, Abolition of Privy Purses, Lowering the Voting Age to 18 years, Setting up a National Commission for Women besides setting up of Agricultural Prices Commission, Inter-State Council, Multi-member Election Commission, Grant of Pension to Freedom Fighters etc. Given the quality of debates and the requirement of Governments to respond to with reasons if enactment as proposed by the Private Members are not feasible, warrant more time for Private Members’ Bills as against only two and a half hours a week at present, suggested Parliament watchers.
The Conference of Whips will also deliberate on the ‘Parliamentary Etiquette’ as established by customs, conventions and rules etc., and examine if a specified ‘Model Code of Conduct’ need to be evolved for adherence so as to enhance the stature of Legislatures and their members.
The two day conference to be held in South Goa will be the 16th All India Whips Conference. Chief Whips and Whips of different parties, who are known as practical ‘Floor Managers’ play an important role as vital links between their respective parties and the Legislatures. They coordinate in enabling attendance of members, listing speakers for participation in various debates as per the background and interests of members, keeping members informed of developments in the Houses from time to time. In essence, they play a critical role in effective functioning of Legislatures.
Such an importance of Whips in the Parliamentary system had been acknowledged by organizing the First All India Whips Conference at Indore in 1952, in the very first year of general elections to the First Lok Sabha.
Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa and Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs-Shri Santosh Gangwar and Shri Prakash Javadekar will also participate in the 16th Conference of Whips.