In a move that could have a wide-ranging ramification on the country's law-making process, the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, has approved a draft pre-legislative process (PLP) for mandatory consultation with citizens before a law is put in place.
The PLP will cover not just new laws but also amendments to existing laws, new rules and amendments to rules.
A working group headed by Aruna Roy had made recommendations on the subject following its pre-legislative discussions with civil society, ahead of drafting of the Lok Pal Bill. It was felt that consultation led to a healthy involvement of ordinary Indian citizens in law-making and should be replicated in the case of all laws.
However, NAC Member N C Saxena said these were only guidelines meant to formalise existing practices of consultation that preceded legislation. "We are not suggesting a particular format for these consultations," he said.
There is no clarity yet on what will constitute a consultation; who will be consulted; whether this will only apply to laws relating to public services or all laws, including complex issues pertaining to financial laws, defence and infrastructure; and if it would apply to the Budget process as well.
The draft of the PLP will be put on the NAC website for public comments, following which it would be finalised and sent to the government for further action.
An NAC statement said the mode of implementation of PLP envisaged that an executive order should be issued, requiring all central ministries to follow PLP before a legislation was introduced in Parliament/ amendment to law/formulation of rules/amendments to existing rules.
The guidelines should provide for desirable modes of disclosure and consultations, while details of such processes might be left to be worked out by the central ministries/departments concerned. The PLP should also adhere to the principles such as a) transparency, b) inclusiveness and c) equity, the statement said.