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Parliamentary Democracy UPSC Notes


What are the various safeguards of parliamentary democracies against executive dominance or abuse?

1. In order to enact its agenda, the executive must command a majority in Parliament.

  • Intra-party dissent - an important role for ruling party parliamentarians — who are not members of the cabinet — to exercise a check over the executive.

  • Occasionally, ruling party backbenchers can even join forces with the Opposition to defeat unpopular Bills.

    • Example : various Brexit deals in the U.K. House of Commons between 2017 and 2019.

2. Rights of opposition

  • Opposition itself is granted certain rights in Parliament, and certain limited control over parliamentary proceedings, in order to publicly hold the executive to account.

3. Neutral and independent Speaker

  • The interests of Parliament against the executive are meant to be represented by the Speaker, a neutral and independent authority.

4. Role of Upper House

  • “Upper House” that acts as a revising chamber, where interests other than those of the brute majority are represented

Comparison of these safeguards with Indian Parliament

  • Indian Constitution, by its very structure, facilitates and enables the marginalisation of Parliament, and the concentration of power within a dominant executive.

  • In India, however, each of these safeguards has been diluted or erased over the years.

  1. Intra-party dissent

  • Intra-party dissent within Indian Parliament not possible because of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution (anti-defection law).

2. Rights of opposition

  • Indian Constitution did not carve out any specific space for the political Opposition in the House.

  • There is no equivalent, for example, of Prime Minister’s questions, where the Prime Minister has to face direct questioning of their record from the Leader of the Opposition as well as by other politicians. 

  • In other words, the manner of proceedings in Parliament are under the complete control of the executive, with no real constitutional checks upon how that control is exercised.

3. Speaker

  • Speaker, in Indian system, is not independent.

  • The Speaker is not required to give up membership of their political party.

  • Speaker is not constitutionally obligated to act impartially.

  • Most of the time Speakers acting in a blatantly partisan manner in order to advance the interests of the executive over the interests of the House.

  • It also has a knock-on effect on the Upper House.

  • When the ruling party wishes to avoid effective scrutiny in the Rajya Sabha over Bills, the Speaker simply classifies the Bill as a “money bill”, thus depriving the Rajya Sabha of the right to make amendments.

4. Role of Upper House

  • Role of the Upper House is undercut by the Speaker’s misclassification of Bills.

  • Also undercut by the constitutionally-sanctioned ordinance making power.

  • An ordinance is nothing more than executive legislation; the executive wants to bypass the Upper House altogether, at least for a period of time.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Parliamentary Democracy UPSC Notes
Parliamentary Democracy UPSC Notes
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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