What is a private member Bill?How they are introduced and discussed?

Reasons for being in news

As the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid pot bubbled recently, nominated Member of Rajya Sabha Rakesh Sinha said he would bring a private member’s Bill “on the Ram Temple”.

What is a private member Bill?

Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member. Parliament’s key role is to debate and make laws. Both Ministers and private members contribute to the lawmaking process. Bills introduced by Ministers are referred to as government bills. They are backed by the government, and reflect its legislative agenda. Private member’s bills are piloted by non-Minister MPs.

Purpose of a private member Bill

Their purpose is to draw the government’s attention to what individual MPs see as issues and gaps in the existing legal framework, which require legislative intervention.

Introduction in the House

The admissibility of a private member’s Bill is decided by the Rajya Sabha Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.The procedure is roughly the same for both Houses. The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction. The House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.

Is there any cap on number of private member’s Bill?

Up to 1997, private members could introduce up to three Bills in a week. This led to a piling up of Bills that were introduced but never discussed; Chairman K R Narayanan, therefore, capped the number of private member’s Bills to three per session.

Is there any fixed day for introduction of private member’s Bill?

While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays. Private member’s Bills have been introduced and discussed in Rajya Sabha on 20 days in the last three years.

Procedure for introduction

On the scheduled Friday, the private member moves a motion for introduction of the Bill, which is usually not opposed. Two recent exceptions to this convention were in 2004, when nominated MP Vidya Nivas Misra’s Bill seeking to amend the Preamble of the Constitution was opposed; and in 2015, when Shashi Tharoor’s Bill to decriminalise homosexuality was not introduced in Lok Sabha after the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey forced a division, which led to the motion being defeated. (The Supreme Court struck down IPC Section 377 recently.)

Only a fraction of private member’s bills that are introduced, are taken up for discussion. Rajya Sabha draws a ballot to decide the sequence of discussion of Bills. If a Bill is successful in the ballot, it has to wait for the discussion to conclude on a Bill currently being debated by the House. Over the last three years, Rajya Sabha saw the introduction of 165 private member’s Bills; discussion was concluded on only 18. A private member’s Bill that is introduced but not discussed in Rajya Sabha, lapses when Member retires.

What happens after the end of the discussion? 

Upon conclusion of the discussion, the Member piloting the Bill can either withdraw it on the request of the Minister concerned, or he may choose to press ahead with its passage. In the latter case, the Bill is put to vote and, if the private member gets the support of the House, it is passed.

What chance does such a Bill have of becoming law?

In 1977, Rajya Sabha passed a private member’s Bill to amend the Aligarh Muslim University Act. The Bill then went to the sixth Lok Sabha, where it lapsed with the dissolution of the House in 1979. In 2015, Rajya Sabha passed The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, a private member’s Bill piloted by Tiruchi Siva of the DMK. The Bill is now pending before Lok Sabha.

The last time a private member’s Bill was passed by both Houses was in 1970. This was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968. Fourteen private member’s Bills — five of which were introduced in Rajya Sabha — have become law so far.