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Data: 24% of The Assurances Pending in 17th Lok Sabha. Some Very Old Assurances Are Still Pending

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Latest data indicates that 24% of the Assurances made in the 17th Lok Sabha are pending as of 12 January 2023. At the same time, 45% of the Assurances made in the Rajya Sabha during the current (17th) Lok Sabha term are pending. Some very old Assurances are still pending.  

In a Parliamentary democracy, the Parliament is the supreme authority. The Executive shall be collectively responsible to the Parliament. Parliament provides a unique opportunity for the elected representatives to hold the government accountable. Elected representatives adopt various strategies to gather information on topics of public interest and in that process, ensure accountability of the government. This could be in form of questions, debates, and resolutions, among others. However, often, when the government is faced with a lack of information or the issues raised have not been thought of previously, Ministers frequently provide assurances, commitments, or promises to consider a topic, act, or provide information in the future while responding to questions in the House or during deliberations of Bills, Resolutions, Motions, etc. These assurances do not lapse either on the expiry of the term of Lok Sabha or on the dissolution of the House.

These assurances are very crucial, and it becomes imperative that these are tracked, to provide a meaningful closure to the assurances made. For such reasons, the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha have formed the ‘Committee on Government Assurances’.  The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs maintains Online Assurance Monitoring System (OAMS) to keep track of all the assurances made.

Today’s story looks at the trends in assurances made, and the implementation of those assurances. Similar reports on assurances and their implementation, compiled by Factly, can be read here, here, here, and here

Brief about the Committee

The Lok Sabha has established a ‘Committee on Government Assurances’ with the aim of institutionalising the process to ensure the fulfilment of promises, and undertakings made from time to time by the Ministers are implemented, and in a reasonable amount of time.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs review the discussions in the Lok Sabha to identify the Ministers’ words and responses that serve as assurances. The standard list of forms constituting assurances can be found here. The assurances so picked out are informed to the respective Ministries/Departments. 

For the implementation of assurance, the Committee has set a maximum time frame of three months, to be counted from the day it was delivered in the House. For any assurances that aren’t feasible to implement, the Government must approach the Committee and present the facts for consideration, and if agreed, such assurances can be dropped. Various Ministries submit implementation reports in the required format to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, and a compiled report by the Committee on Government Assurances is placed before the House.

Around 24% assurances of 17th Lok Sabha are Pending

As of 12 January 2023, around 2259 assurances are made in the 17th term of Lok Sabha. Out of these 2259 assurances, 1605 assurances are implemented, both partially and fully. The number of assurances dropped stands at 122, while the pending assurances add up to 532. This is around 24% of the total assurances made in this term of Lok Sabha.

As mentioned earlier, the work on these assurances is a continuous process. Accordingly, progress can be made on the assurances made in the past Lok Sabha terms. The pendency rate of the 13th and 14th Lok Sabha is Zero, while that of the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha is 0.9% and 3.1% respectively.

45% assurances made in Rajya Sabha for current Lok Sabha term are pending

Like the Lok Sabha, the sessions held in Rajya Sabha during the current Lok Sabha witnessed higher pendency. During the 16th Lok Sabha, 17 Rajya Sabha sessions (232 to 248) were held, and for the 17th Lok Sabha, so far, 10 sessions (249-258) have been held.  The cumulative pendency of assurances in Rajya Sabha during these two Lok Sabha terms stands at 6.8% and 45% respectively.

In terms of numbers, 2983 assurances were made in all sessions during the 16th Lok Sabha term, out of which 2640 were fully implemented, and 140 were dropped. For sessions in the 17th Lok Sabha, so far, 908 assurances are given, out of which 490 are fully implemented, and 10 assurances are dropped. 

5 ministries account for 30% of the pending assurances

If we look at the data of ministry-wise assurances, it is found that around 5.5% of assurances are pending for all ministries cumulatively from the 13th Lok Sabha to the 17th Lok Sabha. Out of this, five ministries/departments namely Railways, Defence, Education, Law and Justice and Social Justice and Empowerment cumulatively account for more than 30% of the total pending assurances.

For the 17th Lok Sabha, as noted earlier, a total of 532 assurances are pending out of the 2259 assurances. Out of these 2259 assurances, nine ministries accounted for more than 45% of assurances made. Ministries like Railways, Road Transport and Highways, Health and Family Welfare, Education and Finance were the top five ministries in terms of assurances made. In terms of pendency, Education, Law and Justice, Railways, Defence, and Chemicals and Fertilizers are the top five ministries accounting for 32% of the pending assurances for the 17th Lok Sabha.

Long-pending assurances still a worry

Pending assurances are always worrisome as they limit the accountability of the Government. Many a time, even the time limit set for the implementation of the assurance is not followed strictly. Below are a few examples of assurances, which have been pending for years. 

Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 3725 answered on 25 August 2011

This question pertained to the implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations on `The Legal Education & Professional Training and Proposals for Amendments to the Advocates Act, 1961 and the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.’ The Minister for Law and Justice at that time replied that the matter is under consideration.  The latest reply by the same minister is as below.

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The Ministry’s request to drop the assurance was not acceded by the Committee.

Lok Sabha unstarred questions 1243, and starred question 314

These two questions pertain to accountability and transparency in sports bodies and the need for an independent sports regulator. A committee was set up to look into the developments post the introduction of the National Sports Development Code of India 2011 and provide suitable recommendations. The Committee recommended Draft National Code for Good Governance in sports, 2017.  Another committee was formed by the Department of Sports to review this draft court, which the Delhi High Court set aside.

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The Ministry’s request to drop the assurance was not acceded by the Committee.

Some important dropped assurances

Lok Sabha Unstarred question 6810, and Starred question 237

These questions pertained to the ‘Integrated Energy Policy’ and ‘New Energy Policy’. NITI Aayog prepared a draft National Energy Policy and circulated it for inter-ministerial consultations in 2018. No progress has been made since then.

As per the request of the Ministry, the assurance has been dropped.

Lok Sabha Unstarred Questions 2987, and 3025

These questions pertained to the security in railways and the Railway Protection Force (RPF). On the question of whether there is any proposal to make RPF fully responsible for safety and security in railways, the ministry replied that the matter has been forwarded to the states for soliciting their opinion. Similarly, a proposal for amendment in the RPF Act, 1957 has been sought to empower RPF to register and investigate passenger-related offences in the passenger area, for which the Ministry of Home Affairs has conveyed observations. These are under the consideration of the Ministry of Railways. 

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As per the request of the Ministry, the assurance has been dropped.

Pendency reduced over the years, but room for improvement still exists

Data on the pendency of assurances from the previous terms of Lok Sabha shows a consistent decline. If such trends are to be continued, it is safe to assume that the pendency of assurances will only decline further. It is observed that the recent Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha sessions have more pendency, which is understandable. However, given a time period of three months for the implementation of assurance, even the recent sessions must have lower pendency of assurances which is not the case. 

Some assurances tend to be pending for years. Such long pendency in assurances delegitimizes the accountability of the Government, and hence, special efforts must be taken to ensure the assurances are duly implemented, wherever possible.

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