Gov Accountability

Centre for Civil Society proposes framework for better lawmaking in India

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Lawmaking processes in many countries are in need of an overhaul to ensure that legislation meets certain basic quality standards before being considered for passage. Atlas Network partner Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in India saw this need but was frustrated by the lack of quality tests that transcended specific policy areas. To meet this need, CCS embarked on its “Quality of Regulation Project” to assemble a toolkit for legislators to use when evaluating the substance of a new law.

The project has produced the Quality of Laws Toolkit for use by legislators, allowing them to evaluate the substance of a law on its merits, regardless of what topics the policy touches. The toolkit tests three areas: representation safeguards, rights safeguards, and resource safeguards. Representation safeguards ensure that the legislation includes input from the public and that the public is informed about the meaning and impact of the law. Rights safeguards make sure that proper constitutional procedure is followed, limiting executive overreach. Resource safeguards evaluate the cost of new legislation both in terms of government spending and how it might distort the market.

As part of their effort to encourage the adoption of their toolkit among lawmakers, CCS used it to analyze several sets of policies already in place. They produced papers on both the toolkit’s methodology and their findings when it was applied to education laws at the national and state level and have submitted them for publication in academic journals. CCS also produced three op-eds to be published on their website and in Indian news sources. The story has been picked up by both the media and by important Indian policy opinion-makers.

The Quality of Laws Toolkit made an impact on policy when the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade included a number of important recommendations from the project in their 2020 proposals for business regulation reform. CCS also successfully used the framework to create and propose amendments to the 2014 Street Vendors Act and regulations on private schools. After combing through several of its departments, they gave the government of the state of Punjab a list of possible improvements to department services, two of which were eventually adopted. Centre for Civil Society hopes to promote the Quality of Laws Toolkit both to Indian legislators and around the world.

Atlas Network supported the Quality of Regulation Project with a grant.