The number of days that the Punjab Assembly is in session each year has been a persistent downward slope, the lowest being during the term of the 15th Assembly in 2021 (11 days) Highlights Days in session hit record-low in 2021, yearly average at a mere 14-days All these Bills were passed on the same day they were introduced, suggesting that no deliberation was undertaken In March 2020, the Assembly held a day-long monsoon session during which it introduced and passed 7 Bills The elections for the 16th Punjab Assembly will be held on February 20, 2022.
The 15th Assembly held its sessions between March 2017 and November 2021 with November 11, 2021, marking the last sitting of the Assembly. Days in session hit record-low in 2021, yearly average at a mere 14-days The number of days that the Punjab Assembly is in session each year has been a persistent downward slope, the lowest being during the term of the 15th Assembly in 2021 (11 days). The current Assembly met on average for only 14 days a year, with a total of 68 sittings. Fifty-six per cent of these sittings (38 days) were held during budget sessions. Since 1997, the Assembly has not met for more than 20 days in a year. In contrast, until 1990, the Assembly sat for less than 20 days only five times excluding the years of Presidential Rule in the mid-80s. The Rules of Procedure of the Assembly require the Assembly to sit for at least 40 days in a financial year. It did not fulfil this criterion throughout this term.
Note: *The President's rule was in place for some part of the year or the entire year. In addition to meeting for lesser days, the duration of sittings has also reduced. As per the Rules of Procedure of the Punjab Assembly, each sitting is scheduled to be 4.5 hours long. However, less than half of the sittings were held for the scheduled time (4.5 hours or more). All Bills were passed on the day they were introduced Until November 2021, the Assembly introduced and passed 117 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills that are passed to approve Budgets). All these Bills were passed on the same day they were introduced, suggesting that no deliberation on the content of the legislation was undertaken. When laws are passed by debating them on the floor of the Assembly in a single day, it indicates that the Assembly is falling short of its responsibility to hold a detailed consideration of legislation that the government is proposing. Further, the Rules of Procedures for the Assembly provide for a Bill to be sent to a committee (known as the Select Committee) for deeper and technical levels of scrutiny. However, none of the Bills passed during this term were sent to a Select Committee. Key legislation passed during this term including three Bills to amend the central farm laws (passed by Parliament in September 2020 and repealed in December 2021) in its scope of application to Punjab, and the Punjab Learning of Punjabi and Other Languages (Amendment) Bill, 2021. In its last session, the Assembly passed two Bills to override tariff-related provisions under the power purchase contracts between Punjab State Power Corporation Limited and the power producers. The Punjab Right to Business Bill, 2020, which aims to facilitate and promote Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises was also passed. It establishes a nodal agency at the state and district levels for providing certain approvals faster to companies intending to set up businesses. Further, the Punjab Social Security Bill, 2018 which creates a fund for the accumulation of a social security surcharge for eligible beneficiaries under various schemes of Punjab was also passed. Response to the COVID-19 pandemic In response to COVID-19 pandemic, the Punjab Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2020 was enacted to bring private clinical establishments under the regulation of the government to ensure compliance of clinical standards and protocol. In the same year, the Punjab Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Amendment Act, 2020 was also enacted to extend the parole of prisoners in case of emergencies.
Both these laws were first promulgated as Ordinances. Article 213 of the Indian Constitution allows the Governor to promulgate an Ordinance when the Legislature is not in session, in case of a need for immediate action. The Ordinance has to be approved by the Assembly within six weeks of the commencement of the next session. After the declaration of the pandemic in March of 2020, the Assembly held a day-long monsoon session during which it introduced and passed seven Bills. In 2020, the Assembly only met for 40% and 56% of the scheduled hours during the monsoon and winter sessions (as shown in the figure above), which is lower than its average sitting time (71%).
Manas Gubbi is a program officer in the outreach team at PRS Legislative Research. Payoja Ahluwalia is an associate analyst in the research team at PRS.