Aizawl: The 40-member Mizoram Assembly sat for a mere 106 days in the past five years as against a target of at least 250 days set by the Presiding Officers' All India Conference.
A resolution adopted at the All-India Conference of Presiding Officers, Chief Ministers, Parliamentary Affairs ministers and other functionaries on Discipline and Decorum in Parliament and Legislatures in Delhi on November 25, 2001, had fixed a minimum of 110 days of sittings of Parliament and 90 and 50 days of sittings of Legislatures depending on the size of the states.
Big states are classified as those having at least 100 members and small states as those having less than 100 members in the state legislatures.
The 40-member Mizoram legislature hardly met the target for want of adequate government businesses to transact.
The highest number of days the Assembly sat for since 2000 was in 2001 when it had a session lasting 24 days, less than half of the recommended days by the Presiding Officers' Conference held in the same year.
It sat for only 14 days in 2010 and 17 days in 2005 which included a one-day special session. The Speaker of the Mizoram Assembly, R Romawia, says that it is mainly the responsibility of the executive (government) to ensure that the legislature sits for more days so that the law-makers would be able to fulfil their responsibilities towards the people who elected them.
“If the government has more businesses to be deliberated, then the sessions would be prolonged,” Romawia told PTI.
He explained that the duration of the session depends on the number of government businesses as intimated by the Business Advisory Committee to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
“Private members can also introduce bills but it is hardly known in Mizoram,” Romawia said, adding “If we can have longer sessions, different subject committees could have taken up bills and study them before being deliberated in the House”.
Lalchamliana, former speaker of the Mizoram Assembly, now a political science teacher at the Pachhunga University in Aizawl, agreed with R Romawia's contention that an efficient government was needed to have the state legislatures functioning more effectively.
“If the government fails to bring more legislation and other businesses, the legislature has minimum work to perform, thereby depriving the legislators opportunities to deliberate more for the benefit of their constituents and the electorate as a whole,” Lalchamliana told PTI.
He also expressed the view that private members should come forward not only with resolutions, but private bills to be legislated upon.
He said that the Mizoram legislators had a good record of observing decorum and stalling of proceedings was almost unknown.
A senior state Assembly secretariat official, who does not want to be named, said that absence or minimum number of government business, including legislative ones, is not the only reason for the shorter sittings of the state legislature.
He said that the successive governments were always reluctant to lengthen the Assembly sessions apprehending that more sittings could result in giving more time to Opposition members to target the ruling party.
Lallianchhunga, Assistant Professor in the Mizoram University's Political Science department, felt, “The tendency to shorten the sitting hours and days of the legislature, especially in Mizoram, is disturbing.”
The legislators are elected by the people to make laws and also deliberate on important issues for the nation, state and the people, he points out.
“Opposition legislators also should initiate a number of businesses including private member bills and private member resolutions. They should realise that they are law-makers and decision makers,” he said.