Speaker pulls up government for legislative apathy

Speaker pulls up government for legislative apathy
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker Sreeramakrishnan

Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan passed a stern ruling in the Assembly on Wednesday asking the government to pull up its socks and initiate urgent steps to draw up the rules for various legislations passed in the Assembly.

“The draft rules for as many as 27 legislations passed in the Assembly has not been framed till date and passed on to the subject committee for detailed scrutiny,” the Speaker said in the Assembly. “This is a very serious issue. Even on earlier occasions, the chair had given strict rulings against this failure to frame rules for legislations passed in the Assembly,” he added. Rules have not been framed for Acts that have been passed even in 2011.

“In such a situation, the common man is unable to enjoy the safety and the backing of legislations passed by the Assembly,” the Speaker said. “I can see this only as sheer indifference to public interest,” he added.

Some of the prominent Acts for which rules have still not been framed are: Kerala Police Act, 2011; Kerala Maritime Board Act, 2017; Malayalam University Act, 2013; Abdul Kalam University Act, 2013; Kerala State Minorities Commission Act, 2014; and Anganwadis Workers' and Helpers' Welfare Fund Board Act, 2016.

The Act is just a statement of intent. It is the rules that give the Act specificity. For instance, take the Police Act. It says that there could be certain occasions where wearing the uniform is optional for the police personnel. But Rules have to be brought out to specify the occasions.

The Speaker said that Rule 238 of Assembly Proceedings mandate that the government should frame rules and hand them over to the subject committees concerned for detailed scrutiny within 90 days of notifying an Act. The subject committees, each one chaired by a minister and has select MLAs as members, should then complete the scrutiny within 90 days and hand over the rules back to the government for implementation.

The Speaker felt that subject committees, which have been formed to oversee department-related legislations, had become dormant. Sreeramakrishnan described subject committees as “Kerala's exalted contribution to parliamentary democracy”. There is a subject committee for every state department. “These subject committees, which have been formed by delegating the powers of the legislature, should utilise their powers,” the Speaker said.

The Speaker asked the subject committees to seek answers from officials who had, according to him, caused “unpardonable delay” in framing rules and recommend exemplary punitive action.

Soon after the Speaker gave his ruling, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan stood up and acknowledged the lapse. “It is unfortunate that this has not been done even after holding a series of meetings,” the chief minister said. “The government will see to it that the issue is sorted out at the earliest,” he said.

The opposition then pointed out that the responsibility should be fixed on the ministers. “It is ministers who chair the subject committees. It is their duty to convene subject committees. The chair should directly tell the ministers to perk up,” Congress MLA K C Joseph said. The Speaker said that his ruling was self explanatory.