Indolent House?

The State of Nagaland has a comparatively small legislature with strength of sixty members. In size as well as in its function, the State Assembly is therefore only a very small miniature of the bicameral Indian Parliament housing two chambers with over 700 members. The smallness of the Assembly though should not in anyway undermine its vibrancy. But it does cause concern when the functionality of the August house comes under question. With the one day session of the Assembly on September 18, it remains to be seen as to whether the session itself was held solely to fulfill a technical rule or was it a genuine desire to address issues upfront. The State Assembly is expected to meet at least twice a year and not more than six months shall be allowed to elapse between the date on which a House is prorogued and the commencement of its next session. Interestingly, the last time the Assembly met was during the Budget Session around March 20-23 of this year. This means that the period of six months would have elapsed any day after September 20 and therefore the one day session on September 18 appears to have been well timed to avoid any constitutional glitch unless off course this assumption is wrong. 

But leaving aside all this, the number of session held in a year and their duration and sitting is awfully short, which not even our honorable MLAs will dispute. Take for instance this year’s record. The Budget session in March was the longest with four days sitting. Add the one day session on September 18, and the total sitting for this year comes to five. Surprisingly, for whatever reasons, the Monsoon Session was given a miss this year. And with election early next year, the September 18 session could well be the last for the 10th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA). It is therefore clearly evident that the NLA hardly sits and even if it does, deliberation remains awfully short not going beyond 4-5 days at the most. It will be equally interesting to find out what the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business (if there is any) have to say on the number of sessions and sittings to be held in every calendar year of the Assembly. Orissa, for instance, under its prevalent Rules, is obligated to have not less than three sessions with minimum 60 sittings days in a year. 

The need therefore arises to strengthen the Legislature in order that it remains an effective tool not only to keep a check on the government of the day but on their part, Legislators would need to be better equipped to function as active and effective participants inside the Assembly. With recent events within the State itself undermining the culture of peace and dialogue, there is an urgent need to advance democratic values, practices and institutions. The MLAs as proud owners of a brand new Assembly Complex should remain equally committed to mould the Legislature into a competent, accountable, transparent, and responsive institution befitting its high status.