Legislative Impact Assessment

Context:

  • The Chairman of Rajya Sabha has advocated detailed Legislative Impact Assessment and called for informed law making in the country by bringing out social, economic, environmental and institutional impacts of legislative proposals which will help in realising the stated objectives of various laws.

Background

  • There is a concern over law making process in India because it does not consider unanticipated outcomes and its impact.
  • In present, India does not have any kind of institutional arrangement for studying the impact of legislation on society.
  • Countries like Kenya and Finland have mechanisms in place for the assessment of regulatory and legislative proposals as an essential part of their legislative process.
What is the legislative impact assessment and what are its objectives?
  • Legislative impact means after the law is made and after the law is enforced how it impacts society. 
  • Legislative impact assessment includes reviewing and studying the impacts of any act or policy on different segments of society after its enactment.
  • It can be termed as ‘post enactment assessment’ which is like an academic exercise that can help government and as well as society at large. 

Objectives of LIA:

  • To identify the policy problem, its root cause and the need for action.
  • Benchmark it against available alternatives.
  • Conduct stakeholder meetings and identify potential impact.
  • Cost-benefit analysis of the preferred option.
What are some concerns over the Lawmaking process in India?
  • Laws are often passed with inadequate scrutiny and assessment.
  • Rush to offer quick-fix solutions to complex problems without assessing long term impact.
  • As a result, both lawmakers and citizens are frequently blindsided by the unanticipated impact.
  • The laws often run aground on issues of implementation.
Why there is a need for legislative impact assessment?
  • Law making process in India has been seen criticized because it has a little consciousness of how the new law will impact either directly or indirectly, economy, ecology, development, and society.
  • Parliament has wider role when it comes to lawmaking. There is detailed scrutiny in both the houses and in the committees. But we do not have post-enactment mechanism.
  • Whether the stated or intended objectives of law achieved or not parliament should be looking at that also because after the law has been passed and is enforced, the responsibility of parliament or legislative assemblies does not end. 
  • There are some mechanisms that already exist, for instance, under the land acquisition law before the land is acquired there is a fair amount of social impact assessment done, before big projects are set up there is an environmental impact assessment. So legislative impact assessment for new policies can be also done.
  • Indian legislation, outside of financial legislation, rarely contains ‘sunset clauses’ which necessitate the cessation of the law after a particular date until re-enacted after review. Such an analysis would evaluate the performance of the legislation against objectives and accordingly suggest optimal course correction.
  • We need post-enactment assessment in case of legislation which is related to areas like technology, where changes in society are at such a pace that the legislation is not able to keep pace with it.
  • With time is changing the society is also changing at a very fast pace. Reviewing the policies and acts after their enactment becomes very important for the growth of the country. 
What are some concerns regarding adopting legislative impact assessment in India?
  • The process of adopting legislative impact assessment would be complicated. Governments can be questioned that why did they enact such policy which became obsolete within a few years.
  • It is not clear yet whether the standing committees will be empowered to go ahead for post legislation assessment or maybe a clause will be put somewhere in the laws itself for its assessment.
  • It is not decided that either this work will be given to an independent agency outside the parliament or some agencies will be created within the ambit of government.

Way Forward

  • The idea of Legislative Impact Assessment is an idea whose time seems to have come. It will give us an opportunity to see whether these legislations which have been enacted by the parliament have the desired impact on society or not.
  • As the largest and vibrant democracy of the world, it is time that we do take a serious look at such impact assessment for ensuring more informed legislation.
  • The time is changing, the society is changing so the laws which govern the society will also have to evolve with time and for them to evolve need initiatives like legislative impact assessment.

Facts for Prelims:

  • The concept of the Legislative Impact Assessment has been evolved from the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) being followed by OECD countries.
  • Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is a systemic approach to critically assessing the positive and negative effects of proposed and existing regulations and non-regulatory alternatives.

Source: The Big Picture