Citizen and the Parliament

-This article was originally published by Sujan Regmi in the Himalayan Times on June 10, 2018

Parliament is a highest law-making body of the country. The main task of the parliament is to make laws as well as keep a check on the functioning of the ruling Government. The parliament also has the supreme authority on passing the annual budget. It also highlights important matters mainly on the issues faced by the people on day to day life. These processes directly affect citizens’ day to day life so each citizen should constantly look after how the parliament has been functioning, if he/she wants to know more on their MP’s work and the governments updates.

The Parliament as an institution functions in a very structured manner. It is guided by the Rules of Procedures which clearly define the procedural requirements that are needed to be followed by its member. The functioning of the House of Representative (lower house) and the National Assembly (upper house) is coordinated by its secretariat office. The members of the parliament receive the information about the days agendas generally one day prior of the meeting.

The house of representative (HOR) begin its work at 1 pm whereas National Assembly starts at 11 am and schedule to work according to the days agenda. The Work Advisory Committee chaired by the Speaker decides the schedules and finalize agendas to work on each day. There are in maximum of 17 members representing various political parties. The National assembly has a President and other maximum of 7 members in work advisory committee to decides the procedure on day work.

In a typical day of a parliament the first one hour is Question Hour. This session is used by the parliamentarians to hold the government accountable for its action through questions on their workings. The matters relating to policies and various other issues faced by the citizens can be questioned and Ministers are answerable on the questions asked. There are mainly two types of question oral and written questions. Oral questions are asked by the Parliamentarian and answered orally by Ministers in charge. These questions are submitted in advance and only 20 oral questions are picked for a day. The questioning Member of Parliament can thereafter ask supplementary questions based on Speaker’s discretion. The written questions receive a written reply from the Ministry within 10 days. A maximum of 50 questions are picked for a day. In National assembly only 10 oral questions and 25 written questions are kept in the schedule.

The Zero Hour and Special Hour are scheduled by the speaker of the house according to the need and urgency. The Speaker decides whether to allow the matter to be raised. This period is usually used to raise matters that are urgent. During this period Parliamentarian participate in the proceedings as an individual lawmaker, independent of the political ideologies.

The Debates and Motion starts after these sessions where various issues are raised and debated in the House. Some of these are voted by the House and some are just discussed with no successive voting. A legislative proposal known as bill has to be passed by the House of Parliament and obtain presidential assent to become an Act. Government bills are introduced by the Ministers and Private member bills by other members of Parliament.

The first and third weeks meeting starts with a question hour where Member of Parliament ask Question to the Prime minister and Prime minister has to give immediate answers to these questions. Maximum 10 questions can be asked in a day.

In national assembly every Monday after the Question hour has a schedule of working on Non-governmental issues where they discuss on bill or other matters except Ministry and council of Ministers.
The parliamentary procedure helps each citizen to track the Member of a particular constituency and look at the questions and the issues that are asked in the parliament on the behalf of the people as well as the current government’s policies.

Any concern in the government is sure to be raised in the Parliament be it from the ruling party or opposition. Thus, for a citizen to know what exactly any member of their elected representatives is are up to, the parliament becomes a one stop place. All sectors including fundamental rights and even long-term policies of the government are discussed in the parliament first. Thus, to actively participate in a healthy democracy, it then becomes the duty of the citizen to be well informed and the Parliament serves this purpose to build an effective democracy.