This article is written by Antaraa Vasudev, Founder, Civis.
In India, you are the superhero of the country and the guardian of our destiny. Laws meant for you and I can be shaped by people like you and me.
How does this work, you ask?
In 2014, the Central Government created a policy known as the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy. This policy enables citizens like you and me, to help draft the laws that impact us and our communities – before these laws are finalized.
The policy states that every Government Department or Ministry should proactively publish and invite citizen’s feedback on their draft/proposed bills for a minimum of 30 days. The process where you share feedback with the government on how a policy may impact you is known as public consultation.
These calls for feedback must contain the draft legislation or at least information about the bills, like its financial implications, and the impact of the Bill on the environment, fundamental rights, lives and livelihoods of citizens.
Introduced in February 2014, the policy aims to support citizen’s legitimate and growing expectations of greater transparency from Government. I think of it as the most powerful tool given to citizens in our democracy.
Read the full text of the policy here: Pre Legislative Consultation Policy
Why is the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy Needed?
In the words of Tarunabh Khaitan, this policy moves India from a representative democracy – one where we elect our representatives and they make laws for us in Parliament, to a ‘deliberative democracy’ – where we, the citizens play a crucial role in shaping our policies.  Greater access to the internet, is making such a transition easier for citizens and Government.
In our work at Civis, we have seen how citizens’ inputs make a huge difference, and ensure that the final policy is relevant and serves the people it was drafted for.
Is Policy Effective?
In their analysis, Sushmita Patel and Arun PS state that between June 2014 and May 2019, 44 Bills were placed before the public for Consultation:
- Total No. of Bills: 186
- Consultations not conducted before introduction in the Parliament: 142
- No. of bills with incomplete consultation: 24
- Complete consultation (considering 30-day deadline as the only criteria): 20
While the policy has not been followed to its optimum, it has been successful in creating a culture of participation – which is a crucial first step in the success of the policy. The number of Bills shared for Consultation are rising, and the time during which public feedback is sought is longer in 2019 than it has been previously.
Why Should You Participate?
Participating in public consultations gives lawyers an edge over their competitors. In sectors such as e-commerce and financial technology, a large number of bills are placed for consultation. Participating in these consultations and knowing the bill inside out gives you the opportunity to advise your clients on upcoming legislation before it becomes popular knowledge.
Many lawyers looking to pursue careers in environmental law, or public policy will find that these Consultations are key to enhance their knowledge of public policy.
Those looking to prepare for their civil services will also benefit from participating actively in public consultations.
How do you Participate?
Government Ministries typically publish consultations on their website, some consultations are also published on the Government portal MyGov.
But if you’re looking for a fun way to show off your policy skills and understand these policies in simple language, take a look at www.civis.vote. Analyze policies, discuss their shortcomings and share your super-citizen status with friends.
Policies can range from the Data Protection Policy to the National Education Policy, with new opportunities to hone your knowledge and skills, every week. Don’t wait, become a citizen leader today!