Much like almost everything else, parliamentary business has also experienced a lull due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The session could not be convened, and when it was earlier this month, the ongoing pandemic remained the sole agenda for deliberations. Important pieces of legislation remain pending, nearing closer to the 90-day deadline for passing or rejection of bills as per Article 70(2). To deal with this, the government is planning to convene a joint session of the parliament, but there are concerns that the opposition parties may not cooperate, if such a session is indeed called.

This would be unfortunate unless good reasons are provided by the parliamentary opposition parties. Creating hurdles with the sole aim of frustrating the government is not the sort of behaviour that is to be expected from representatives of the public.

When a government is not allowed to carry on with its work, it is ultimately the common people who suffer. If the opposition’s apparent reluctance is based on genuine concerns, then they should be put forth for possible redressal. However, at the end of the day, it is the government’s responsibility to complete legislative work. It is not uncommon for opposition parties to play hardball. It is the job of the ruling parties to create a conducive environment, which enables them to turn the opposition around on key items.

It would be too much to expect the opposition parties to offer blind support just because there is an ongoing pandemic. In respect of democratic norms, a healthy debate should be held in both houses. This may appear tiresome to the ruling party of the day, but it is necessary and beneficial for the government itself. Debates not only compel opposition members to actually reveal the reasons behind their lack of cooperation before the observing public, they also generate constructive criticism that can be incorporated to create better legislation.