And MPs refused to even take up the bill, they decided to do extend the time allotted to a different debate, on whether there should be ‘compulsory’ voting.

Tharoors bill on homosexuality What kind of democracy does not allow debate
Voices Opinion Friday, December 18, 2015 - 19:26

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was slated to introduce a Private Member’s Bill today –to decriminalise ‘consensual sex between consenting adults’, in his own words. The Bill sought to amend the Indian Penal Code with respect to the controversial Section 377, which was declared unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, only to be brought back by the Supreme Court in 2013. As it stands now, indulging in homosexual acts in India isn't just illegal, but criminal.

Unfortunately, Tharoor did not manage to get the Bill introduced in Parliament. Read carefully, we’re not talking about passing the Bill, we’re talking about *introduction*.

Tharoor wanted to talk about the role of the Government in our bedrooms, but BJP’s Nishikant Dubey decided this conversation was too risqué for Indian sensibilities, so he opposed, not the passing, but even a debate on the Bill. 71 people including him decided that this Bill should not be discussed in the Lok Sabha, whereas 24 MPs decided to take Tharoor’s side.

 
Should 377 go or remain? Well, that can be a matter of opinion. But should this issue be debated at all? According to our elected representatives sitting in Lok Sabha today, apparently not.

While a BJP MP opposed the introduction, the fact that so many people voted against Tharoor has nothing to do with the party, at least officially. There was no whip issued – which means the members were free to vote whichever way they wanted to. While the BJP MPs present seem to have overwhelmingly taken Dubey’s side, the Congress benches were empty.

Life Cycle of a Bill in Parliament

Figure 1: Typical Life Cycle of a Bill

 

Figure 2: Typical Life Cycle of a Private Member's Bill

 

Figure 3: Tharoor's Private Member's Bill to decriminalize homosexuality

'Except for Sushmita Dev and Ninong Ering, no other Congress MP was present to support Tharoor. In fact, sources say, some members deliberately skipped House because they didn’t want to be seen in support of the Bill in any way!

Typically, no one pays any attention to Private Members’ Bills. Friday afternoons are usually lean days for Parliament. Except for the MPs whose Bills are being introduced and/or discussed, very few people actually attend the sitting.

So even if the Bill had been introduced, the chances of it being passed were very slim.

How we might have benefitted from a debate though, is that the country would have had an opportunity to listen to our legislators debate ideas of sexuality, criminality and consent. Or at least, some version of it.

And as our elected representatives refused to even engage on the subject of sexual minorities, the very same group decided to do extend the number of hours allotted to a different debate, on whether there should be ‘compulsory’ voting in the country.

Democracy, much?

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