In the last 40 years, India's parliament has not passed a single bill put forward by individual MPs, known as Private Members' Bills, other than those proposed by government ministers, shows an analysis ahead of the budget session.
Parliament also spent very little time in debating such bills, which an MP describes as an 'essential and very important instrument' to raise issues of national concern, before dropping them.
'Till date, parliament has passed only 14 Private Members' Bills. Six of these were passed in 1956 alone. And no Private Members' Bill has been passed by parliament since 1970,' according to an analysis by PRS Legislative Research, an independent research initiative.
In the Lok Sabha, the last two and a half hours of a sitting every Friday is generally allotted for transaction of Private Members' business -- Private Members' Bills and Private Members' Resolutions.
An MP who is not a minister is called a private member and bills introduced by them are called Private Members' Bills.
The last Private Members' Bill passed by parliament was 'The Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968', which became an act on Aug 9, 1970.
The last Lok Sabha, the 14th, saw 300 such bills introduced and barely four percent of them were discussed while 96 percent lapsed without even a single debate in the house.
'There were 328 such bills introduced in the 14th Lok Sabha and only 14 were discussed,' the analysis said.
The analysis has laid a specific emphasis in the context of the 13th and 14th Lok Sabha.
'Only 53 hours were spent on such discussions during the entire five-year term (2004-09) of the 14th Lok Sabha. The situation was similar during the term of the NDA government (13th Lok Sabha),' it said.
At least 343 Private Member Bills were introduced in the 13th Lok Sabha.
'Only 17 (five percent) were discussed and none was passed,' according to the PRS findings.
Participation in the house through Private Members' Bills was also limited - only 67 non-minister MPs introduced bills in the five years of the 14th Lok Sabha.
Of these, four MPs - C.K. Chandrappan of the Communist Party of India, Mohan Singh of the Samajwadi Party and Bachi Singh Rawat and Hansraj Gangaram Ahir (Bharatiya Janata Party) - contributed a total of 101 bills.
'The 13th Lok Sabha saw similar levels of participation, with only 75 MPs introducing bills. On average, Congress MPs introduced more bills than their BJP counterparts,' according to the data.
Asked for her reaction, Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Brinda Karat told IANS: 'You know in the Indian system, unlike the American parliamentary system, it is the government that has the primary responsibility to move legislation and bills. The opposition hardly musters the numbers needed in voting for introducing a Private Member Bill.'
Since there are a large number of bills to be tabled in each session, the selection of bills for discussion is done through ballot. The Committee on Private Members' Bills and Resolutions classifies the bills according to their nature, urgency and importance.
Karat said the reason for few Private Member Bills being debated in parliament can be attributed to the timing of the session. 'You hardly have time for a thorough discussion on Private Member Bills in parliament,' she said.
Manish Tewari, Congress Lok Sabha MP from Ludhiana, echoed the view. 'It is an essential and very important instrument with Private Members to raise issues of concern. The government should examine each bill.'
Asked if the house gets little time for such bills, he said, 'Absolutely and this has to improve.'
Tewari said in the upcoming budget session he will move a Private Member Bill - to amend the anti-defection law to provide freedom of expression to parliamentarians and legislators.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at email@example.com)