The Parliament has an important role in making laws. There are many ways through which this takes place and it is often different groups in society that raise the need for the particular law. An important role of Parliament is to be sensitive to the problems faced by people.
Let us understand how the issue of domestic violence was brought to the attention of the Parliament and the process adopted for this issue to become law. Domestic violence against women is a major concern for our society. Throughout the 1990s, the need for a new law was raised in different forums demanding protection of women against being beaten, the right to continue living is a shared household and often temporary relief. In 1999, Lawyers Collective, a group of lawyers, law students and activists, after nation-wide consultations took the lead in drafting the Domestic Violence (Preventuion and Protection) Bill. This draft bill was widely circulated. meeting were held with different organisations. Finally, the Bill was introduced in parliament in 2002 but the women organisations were not satisfied vvitht he bill in its present form. Several women's organisations, National Commission for Women made submissions to the Parliament Standing Committee asking for a change in the format of the present bill. In December 2002, the Standing Committee submitted its recommendations to the Rajya Sabha and these were also tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Committee's report accepted most of the demands of the women's groups. Finally a new bill, was reintroduced in Parliament in 2005. After being passed in both houses of Parliament, it was sent to the President for his assent. The protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act came into effect in 2006. The Act recognises the right of women to live in a shared household, women can get a protection order against any further violence, women can get moentary relief to met their expenses including medical costs.
The role of citizens is crucial in helping Parliament frame different concerns that people might have into laws. From establishing the need for a new law to its being passed, at every stage of the process the voice of the citizen is a crucial element. This voice can be heard through TV reports, newspaper editorials, radio broadcasts, local meetings - all of which help in making the work that parliament does more accessible and transparent to the people.
The role as citizens does not end with electing the representatives. Rather It is the duty of the citizen to use newspapers and the media carefully chart the work that is being done by our MPs and criticise their actions when we feel it is required.
Unpopular and Controversial Laws
Many a times the Parliament passes laws that turn out to be very unpopular. Sometimes a law can be constitutionally valid and hence legal, but it can continue to be unpopular and unacceptable to people because they feel that the intention behind it is unfair and harmful. Hence, people might criticise this law, hold public meetings, write about it in newspapers, report to TV news channels etc. In a democracy like ours, citizens can express their unwillingness to accept repressive laws framed by the Parliament and can put pressure on the Parliament to change this.
If some laws favour one group and disregards the other it will be controversial and lead to conflict. People who think that the law is not fair can approach the court to decide on the issue. The court has the power to modify or cancel laws if it finds that they don't adhere to the Constitution.
The role of citizens does not end with electing their representatives. Rather, it is then that the citizens begin to use newspapers and the media to carefully chart the work that is being done by their MPs and criticise their actions when the citizens fee it is required. Thus, what the citizens should bear in mind is that it is the extent, involvement and enthusiasm of the people that helps Parliament perform its representatives functions properly.