Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala lead list for maximum sittings of state legislatures
State assemblies across the country met for an average of 21 days in 2022 and the number of sittings of the state legislatures has been steadily declining since 2016, according to a report compiled by think-tank PRS Legislative Research.
The report said the 28 state assemblies met for 21 days on an average in 2022. Karnataka met for the highest number of 45 days, followed by West Bengal (42 days) and Kerala (41 days). In most states, the legislature meets for two or three sessions in a year — a longer Budget Session held between January and March, followed by brief monsoon and winter sessions.
Only two sessions in 12 states
Twelve states, including five in the northeast, met for only two sessions in 2022. Around 61 per cent of the sittings were held during the Budget Session. The Tamil Nadu Assembly held more than 90 per cent of its sittings in the Budget Session. Gujarat and Rajasthan held more than 80 per cent of their sittings in the Budget Session.
The average duration of a sitting across 20 states was five hours. On an average, a sitting in Maharashtra lasted eight hours, while in Sikkim, it lasted two hours. Between 2016 and 2022, 24 state assemblies met for an average of 25 days. Kerala had the highest average number of 48 sitting days a year, followed by Odisha (41 days) and Karnataka (35 days).
COVID takes a toll
The number of average sitting days has declined steadily from 2016 to 2022, with a dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, the assemblies of 24 states held sittings for an average of 31 days, in 2017, it was 30 days, in 2018, 27 days and in 2019, it was 25 days. In 2020, the number of sittings was down to 17 days due to the pandemic. In 2021, it was 22 days.
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) had recommended that the states set a minimum number of sitting days for their legislatures, based on the number of members. States such as Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have mandated a minimum number of sitting days for their legislatures and the limits vary from 35 days in Himachal Pradesh to 90 days in Uttar Pradesh.
Target not met since 2016
However, the report said none of these states has met the target since 2016. Article 202 of the Constitution requires the state governments to present the budget before the legislature every year.
On an average, 20 states discussed budgets for eight days in 2022. Tamil Nadu spent 26 days on the entire budget discussion, followed by Karnataka (15 days), Kerala (14 days) and Odisha (14 days). Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab discussed their budgets for two days each. Nagaland discussed and passed its budget in a day.
In 2022, the state legislatures passed more than 500 Bills on various subjects, including land, labour and social justice. Appropriation Bills and Finance Bills, which are passed to sanction government expenditure, were not included in the report. All 28 states passed 21 Bills on an average in 2022. The highest number of 85 bills were passed by Assam, followed by Tamil Nadu (51) and Goa (38). Assam passed 85 bills in 2022, 51 more than it passed in 2021 (34).
Bills passed in a haste
State legislatures often pass Bills quickly, without much debate and deliberation, the report said. In 2022, 56 per cent of the total 322 bills were passed on the day of introduction or the very next day. In 2021, this proportion was 44 per cent. In 2022, nine states, including Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab and West Bengal, passed all Bills within a day of introduction. These states passed all Bills within a day in 2021 as well.
Four states — Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya and Rajasthan — took more than five days to pass a majority of the Bills. Rajasthan passed 73 per cent of the bills after at least five days of their introduction in the legislature. The corresponding figure was 67 per cent for Kerala and 59 per cent for Karnataka. In 2022, across the states, less than 30 Bills were referred to committees for a detailed study.
(With agency inputs)