Fading Legislature

The Assembly Session of the Nagaland Legislature on December 14 Thursday is expected to be a short one with nothing much expected other than making Obituary reference, laying of papers, reports and resolutions if any. The Speaker in all probability will adjourn the session sine-dine on the same day. It is obvious that such woefully short duration that Legislature meets is an area of concern here because at the end of it all it is clearly evident that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly hardly sits and even if it does, deliberation remains awfully short not going beyond 4-5 days at the most. What is equally disturbing is that more often than not the entire legislative exercise is government centric with almost all legislation been initiated by the executive and easily passed by the legislature. Since law making and policy formulation is often seen as the primary function of the legislature, the failure at critical examination, to defeat, modify or affect legislation is itself a reflection of the growing impotence of the legislature and also the MLAs who sit there. Whether it is plain dereliction of duty or the fact that MLAs are incapacitated by sheer ignorance, both are matters of concern and needs proper correction in the context of parliamentary democracy in Nagaland.  

It will be worthwhile here to address the specific need to strengthen the Legislature in order that it remains an effective tool to keep a check on the government of the day. The power of scrutiny it enjoys over the expenditure and spending of the government is one area that needs greater attention of the Legislature. It is noticed that the importance attached in controlling executive spending has become an insignificant function. It needs to be re-emphasized that not a farthing can be spent by Ministers or the government unless it is legally appropriated through the Legislature and hence the latter has as much privilege and the right to scrutinize government spending. One positive development observed over the last few years is the emerging role of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in the context the State’s finances and their misappropriation. A CAG report is widely feared among the bureaucratic and political circles as it is able to scrutinize the entire financial system of the country—at the Centre as well as State levels. As the impartial head of the audit and accounts system of India, the role being played by the CAG needs to be appreciated as well as encouraged in the context of Nagaland. 

On their part, Legislators would need to be better equipped to function as active and effective participants both inside and outside the Assembly as agents of socio-economic change. Recognizing the urgent need to advance democratic values, practices and institutions, MLAs in Nagaland have as much responsibility to help mould the Legislature and their own roles should be harnessed to meet the objectives thereto. It is essential for members to be well conversant with the Rules and Procedure of the House regarding conduct of business. However, in order to remain effective, legislators themselves have to be provided with the necessary information and technical know-how on the entire gamut of issues related to the working of the Legislative system. More orientation programmes under the initiative of the Speaker needs to be organized in order to further strengthen the legislative process.