Missing in actionMPs who remain absent from Parliament should be charged
Legislative absenteeism is a glaring, but often ignored, feature of parliamentary behaviour. In our country too, lawmakers who don’t show up for work have often hindered Parliament’s work. And this practice has spilled into public view as media reports have found that lawmakers from the opposition parties have skipped more meetings in the budget session of the House of Representatives (HoR) as compared to those from the ruling parties. The budget session of Parliament, which was prorogued last week, saw as many as 14 lawmakers from the Nepali Congress remaining absent from HoR meetings on more than 10 occasions, while eight lawmakers from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) skipped more than 10 meetings. A total of 31 Members of Parliament (MPs), including some influential leaders of the major parties, were absent from HoR meetings on more than 10 occasions. This is a worrying trend.
Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and NCP Co-Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal were among the top leaders skipping parliamentary meetings. Deuba missed 32 out of the total 79 meetings, while Dahal was absent from 21 meetings. A provision under Article 89 (d) of the constitution states that an MP’s seat shall become vacant if he or she remains absent from 10 consecutive meetings. Lawmakers make appearances to avoid being unseated, but that is not enough.
Absenteeism in the House impairs business. It will have a bearing on the proceedings and also erode the quality of the debate. Moreover, failure to attend parliamentary sessions is failure to wholly represent the interests of the electorate. Passing bills is the single most important function of Parliament. But many a time, our Parliament has failed to pass crucial legislation due to lack of quorum. Examples abound. More often than not, lawmakers leave after marking their attendance. Such acts lead to adjournments, ultimately eating into Parliament’s calendar.
It is common for leaders to make tall promises to woo voters. Based on the things they say they will get done, the public votes for them. Hence, Parliament is the place where the chosen leaders can deliver on their promises. When MPs fail to attend parliamentary sessions, or when they fail to sit throughout and discuss certain issues, it can be seen as a betrayal of the trust bestowed upon them. It is their duty to do their work sincerely. Should they fail to discharge their duties in Parliament, action must be taken against them. Measures may include imposing a fine or cutting down the number of days they can remain absent. But whatever measure is followed, it has to be implemented seriously. The duties of MPs include participating in debates and voting on legislation and other matters. They do not have the option to escape them.