Democracy is often identified with participation and participation is a fundamental aspect of any democracy. While voting is one way we participate in democratic processes, the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) provides a way through which we can become pro-active citizens in our day-to-day lives. It provides citizens with a channel to provide their feedback and comments on future laws. This piece aims to cover the basics of the pre-legislative consultation policy and how one can participate in the process to make their voices heard.
What is the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP)?
It is a process through which citizens engage with the government by providing feedback and comments on policies and draft bills. A draft bill is a proposal made to the Parliament to become a law. It is this draft bill that is placed before the public for their feedback. Prior to 2014, this process was not uniformly recognised or followed consistently.
However, in 2014, the Central government introduced the PLCP. Under this, it has been mandated that every Ministry must place draft bills in the public domain for comments/feedback for 30 days. The document put out for public consultation should also provide reasons for the need of the law, financial considerations and explanation of legal terms in simple language. The document is also required to cover the possible impact it could have on the citizens and their fundamental rights. It is only after the completion of this process that the draft is sent for approval to the Cabinet.
How is the policy being implemented currently?
The 2014 policy required every Ministry to publish the draft bills on their websites and any other means through which it could reach a wider set of citizens. In case, the law impacts a specific group of people, it is the duty of the Ministry to ensure the relevant information reaches the group concerned. The feedback and comments are made public on the Ministry’s website as well. Since 2017, the number of laws which are opened for public feedback are growing at a rate of 111%.
The main issues being faced by the government are in terms of awareness of the
Pre-legislative consultation process. At times consultations are put out in the public domain but there are no responses from the citizens. On the other hand, large volumes of feedback are often not processed because of internal capacity constraints.
How can you participate in the pre-legislative consultation process?
Taking part in this process can seem intimidating as all of us are not familiar with legal language. However, the policy requires each department to release the key objectives of a draft bill when calling for public comments. This makes it easy to go through the draft bills. User-friendly platforms like Civis —a non-profit organisation that makes it easy for you to find out about the upcoming laws and policies, and MyGov also regularly update the bills up for consultation along with a summary of the draft bill in simple language, free of any legal jargon. While websites like OurGov.In aggregate all laws open for public feedback.
On Civis, one can submit their own feedback on the site and see other responses as well. It gives one the opportunity to understand what your fellow citizens feel about a particular issue. This facilitates public dialogue. All of the feedback from the Civis platform is then conveyed to the appropriate government department, and updates to the law are shared with citizen leaders.
One can also participate by spreading awareness about the pre-legislative consultation policy. This can be done by sharing one’s own feedback on various channels and encouraging people to do the same. This will also tackle the issue of awareness being faced by the government. The more citizens get involved, the higher the success of the process.
Why should you participate in the PLCP?
As we currently witness the protests of the Farm Bills we know that laws have a huge impact on all aspects of our lives. The PLCP gives us a chance to ensure that future laws reflect the needs of the citizens. It also provides an avenue for us citizens to bring to the notice of the government the concerns they may have with the draft bill. Through participation in the public consultation process, we contribute towards creating a vibrant and proactive citizen body.
Written by Kopal Mittal, Research Fellow, Civis; Edited by Yoshita Rao