Yesterday the Prime Minister reshuffled his Cabinet and inducted four cabinet ministers and four ministers of state. Since the beginning of the UPA II government, there have been three major Cabinet reshuffles and a number of minor readjustments in the portfolios of ministers. Analysing changes in the portfolios of ministers gives an insight into the churn in the political leadership of the different ministries of the government of India. Until recently there was no central online resource where information could be collated about cabinet reshuffles. The information was scattered between the websites of the President, the Prime Minister and the Press Information Bureau. Since 2012, the Cabinet Secretariat has started putting details about changes in the portfolio of the council of ministers in the public domain. However analysing this information becomes difficult as the information is split into different files and details about the Cabinet reshuffle do not go back till 2009. We have tried to collate data about changes in Cabinet portfolios since May 2009, so that it becomes easily accessible and can be analysed by interested individuals. The raw data file can be accessed here. This data could be analysed to see which Ministers have shifted across ministries or the average length of tenure of Ministers in different ministries. If you spot interesting trends in the raw data above, please share them with us on twitter@prslegislative We have done a preliminary analysis of the data to see which ministries have had the most changes in Cabinet Ministers since May 2009: - Railway Ministry portfolio has been held by six different Cabinet Ministers [Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi, Mukul Roy, C P Joshi (twice), Pawan Kumar Bansal and now Mallikarjun Kharge] - Ministry of Law and Justice, Corporate Affairs and Science and Technology: Four Cabinet Ministers. - Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Civil Aviation, Rural Development, Tourism and Youth and Sports: Three Cabinet Ministers. - Ministries like Finance, Home, External Affairs, Communications and Information Technology, Human Resource Development: Two Cabinet Ministers. - Ministries like Agriculture and Non Conventional Energy Sources have the same Ministers from May 2009. This data also helped us put together a brief chronology of Cabinet reshuffles since the beginning of the term of the UPA II government:
|23 & 28- May-09
|Cabinet sworn in.
|Meria Kumar resigns as Minister of Water Resources to become Speaker of Lok Sabha.
|Shashi Tharoor resigns as Minister of State from the Ministry of External Affairs.
|A Raja resigns as Minister of Communications and Information Technology. Kapil Sibal gets additional charge of the ministry.
|First major cabinet reshuffle. Most ministries affected.
|Second major Cabinet reshuffle. Dinesh Trivedi assumes charge of Railway Ministry after Mamata Banerjee, Salman Khursheed becomes Law Minister, Jairam Ramesh moves to Rural Development. New Ministers like Rajeev Shukla (Parliamentary Affairs) and Jayanthi Natarajan (Environment and Forest) get inducted.
|RLD joins UPA. Ajit Singh inducted as Minister of Civil Aviation.
|Dinesh Trivedi resigns and Mukul Roy becomes Railway Minister.
|Pranab Mukherjee resigns as Finance Minister to fight the presidential election.
|P Chidambaram moves from Home to Finance Ministry and Sushil Kumar Shinde moves from Power to Home Ministry.
|Trinamool withdraws support to UPA. All TMC ministers resign. C P Joshi assumes additional charge of Railway Ministry.
|Third major reshuffle. S M Krishna resigns from Ministry of External Affairs and Salman Khursheed takes over. Ashwani Kumar comes in place of Salman Khursheed in Law and Justice. Ambika Soni resigns and Manish Tiwari takes charge of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Ajay Maken moves from Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to Housing and Urban Poverty Alliviation.
|DMK withdraws support. All DMK Ministers resign.
|Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal resign. Kapil Sibal takes charge of Ministry of Law and Justice and C P Joshi takes charge of Railways.
|Ajay Maken and C P Joshi resign.
The Uttarakhand Assembly concluded a two-day session on November 30, 2022. The session was scheduled to be held over five days. In this post we look at the legislative business that was carried out in the Assembly, and the state of state legislatures.
13 Bills were introduced and passed within two days
As per the Session Agenda, a total of 19 Bills were listed for introduction in the span of two days. 13 of these were listed to be discussed and passed on the second day. These included the Uttarakhand Protection of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Amendment), Bill, 2022, and the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The Assembly had proposed to discuss and pass each Bill (barring two) within five minutes (see Figure 1). Two Bills were allocated 20 minutes each for discussion and passing - the Haridwar Universities Bill, 2022, and the Public Service (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022. As per news reports, the Assembly passed all 13 Bills within these two days (this excludes the Appropriation Bills). This raises the question on the amount of scrutiny that these Bills were subject to, and the quality of such laws when the legislature intends to pass them within mere minutes.
Figure 1: Excerpt of Uttarakhand Assembly's November 2022 Session Agenda
Law making requires deliberation, scrutiny
Our law-making institutions have several tools at their disposal to ensure that before a law is passed, it has been examined thoroughly on various aspects such as constitutionality, clarity, financial and technical capacity of the state to implement provisions, among others. The Ministry/Department piloting a Bill could share a draft of the Bill for public feedback (pre-legislative scrutiny). While Bills get introduced, members may raise issues on constitutionality of the proposed law. Once introduced, Bills could be sent to legislative committees for greater scrutiny. This allows legislators to deliberate upon individual provisions in depth, understand if there may be constitutional challenges or other issues with any provision. This also allows experts and affected stakeholders to weigh in on the provisions, highlight issues, and help strengthen the law.
However, when Bills are introduced and passed within mere minutes, it barely gives legislators the time to go through the provisions and mull over implications, issues, or ways to improve the law for affected parties. It also raises the question of what the intention of the legislature is when passing laws in a hurry without any discussion. Often, such poorly thought laws are also challenged in Courts.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in this session (five minutes had been allocated for the discussion and passing of the Bill). The 2022 Bill amends the 2018 Act which prohibits forceful religious conversions, and provides that conversion through allurement or marriage will be unlawful. The Bill has provisions such as requiring an additional notice to be sent to the District Magistrate (DM) for a conversion, and that reconversion to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion. Some of these provisions seem similar to other laws that were passed by states and have been struck down by or have been challenged in Courts. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court while examining the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 noted that providing a notice to the DM for a conversion of religion violates the right to privacy as the right includes the right to remain silent. It extends that understanding to the right to decide on one’s faith. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 exempted people who reconvert to their original religion from giving a public notice of such conversion. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had struck down this provision as discriminatory and violative of the right to equality. The Court also noted that the right to change one’s belief cannot be taken away for maintaining public order.
Uttarakhand MLAs may not have had an opportunity to think about how issues flagged by Courts may be addressed in a law that regulates religious conversions.
Most other state Assemblies also pass Bills without adequate scrutiny
In 2021 44% states passed Bills on the day it was introduced or on the next day. Between January 2018 and September 2022, the Gujarat Assembly introduced 92 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills). 91 of these were passed in the same day as their introduction. In the 2022 Monsoon Session, the Goa Assembly passed 28 Bills in the span of two days. This is in addition to discussion and voting on budgetary allocation to various government departments.
Figure 2: Time taken by state legislatures to pass Bills in 2021
Note: The chart above does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. A Bill is considered passed within a day if it was passed on the day of introduction or on the next day. For states with bicameral legislatures, bills have to be passed in both Houses. This has been taken into account in the above chart for five states having Legislative Councils, except Bihar (information was not available for Council).
Sources: Assembly websites, E-Gazette of various states and Right to Information requests; PRS.
Occasionally, the time actually spent deliberating upon a Bill is lesser than the allocated time. This may be due to disruptions in the House. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly provides data on the time actually spent discussing Bills. For example, in the August 2022 Session, it spent an average of 12 minutes to discuss and pass 10 Bills. However, the Uttarakhand Assembly allocated only five minutes to discuss each Bill in its November 2022 Session. This indicates the lack of intent of certain state legislatures to improve their functioning.
In the case of Parliament, a significant portion of scrutiny is also carried out by the Department Related Standing Committees, even when Parliament is not in session. In the 14th Lok Sabha (LS), 60% of the Bills introduced were sent to Committees for detailed examination, and in the 15th LS, 71% were sent. These figures have reduced recently – in the 16th LS 27% of the Bills were sent to Committees, and so far in the 17th LS, 13% have been sent. However, across states, sending Bills to Committees for detailed examination is often the exception than the norm. In 2021, less than 10% of the Bills were sent to Committees. None of the Bills passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly had been examined by a committee. States that are an exception here include Kerala which has 14 subject Committees, and Bills are regularly sent to these for examination. However, these Committees are headed by their respective Ministers, which reduces the scope of independent scrutiny that may be undertaken.