The Indian Parliament

The Indian Parliament


The breach of security in the Indian Parliament in December 2023, marked by disruptive actions, suspensions, and a tense standoff between the ruling party and the Opposition, warrants a careful review of the state of India’s parliamentary system—one of the foundational institutions of the nation’s public life.


GS-02 (Parliament)

Mains Question:

Discuss the historical evolution and foundational principles of India’s parliamentary system, highlighting the paradoxes inherent in its structure. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Historical Foundations of India’s Parliamentary System
  • The Essence of Parliamentary System and its Paradoxes
  • Current Challenges and Breach of Parliamentary Security
  • Leadership’s Role in Upholding Parliamentary Dignity
  • Comparison of Parliamentary and Presidential Systems

Historical Foundations of India’s Parliamentary System:

  • The choice of India’s parliamentary form of government was not arbitrary but emerged from a heated debate within the Constituent Assembly.
  • Various stances, including presidential, Indian orthodoxy, Swarajist, and parliamentary, were vigorously discussed.
  • The parliamentary model won, emphasizing the need for a decisive authority responsive to the citizens’ voice. This model was seen as better accommodating minorities and allowing a dynamic discussion on what is good for the citizen community.

The Essence of Parliamentary System and its Paradoxes:

  • The parliamentary system demands stable support yet insists on being questioned and challenged to ensure fidelity to the common good. A competitive party system becomes crucial for the effective operation of this dialectic between stable support and effective opposition.
  • The paradox lies in the majority assuming endorsement from the citizens while the system mandates constant critical validation for the common good. The absence of an effective opposition was initially a concern, leading to efforts to limit its space, but the logic of the system has constrained ruling parties to coexist with a sustained opposition.

Current Challenges and Breach of Parliamentary Security:

  • The recent breach of security in Parliament is not merely an institutional lapse but a breach inflicted on the nation itself. The Opposition’s demand to prioritize this issue within Parliament is justified. However, the response from the present leadership seemed lacking.
  • Instead of addressing concerns and ensuring necessary assurances, there was a tendency to view the Opposition’s demands as an affront to parliamentary proceedings. The failure to form a security committee in consultation with the Opposition raises questions about the leadership’s independence and commitment to parliamentary norms.

Leadership’s Role in Upholding Parliamentary Dignity:

  • Drawing from historical instances, where leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru respected parliamentary conventions, the current leadership’s approach to the Opposition’s demands raises concerns.
  • The suspension of a significant number of Opposition members, while not absolving the Opposition of all responsibilities, hardly aligns with the principle of parliamentary virtue. The responsibility of the leadership, including presiding officers, is to act as the voice of the nation and defend the course pursued as the truth, rather than merely upholding their version of truth.

Comparison of Parliamentary and Presidential Systems:

Executive Structure:

  • Parliamentary System: Dual executive, with the executive accountable to the legislature.
  • Presidential System: Single executive, with the head of state and government not directly accountable to the legislature.

Ministerial Appointments:

  • Parliamentary System: Ministers must be selected from among Members of Parliament.
  • Presidential System: Individuals from outside the legislature can be appointed as ministers.

Dissolution of Lower House:

  • Parliamentary System: Prime Minister can dissolve the lower house before its term expires.
  • Presidential System: President lacks the power to dissolve the lower house.

Executive Tenure:

  • Parliamentary System: Tenure is not fixed and depends on the confidence of the legislature.
  • Presidential System: Executive tenure is fixed.

Way Forward:

  • Ensuring the integrity and dignity of the parliamentary system requires a reevaluation of the leadership’s approach. A more inclusive and consultative process, especially in matters of security and contentious issues, would contribute to upholding parliamentary norms.
  • The role of both ruling and opposition parties is vital in maintaining the delicate balance that the parliamentary system demands. As the nation’s pulse, Parliament should embody the democratic spirit, and any breach or deviation from this undermines the essence of India’s chosen form of governance.