In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Introduction to the Parliament of India 2. The Rajya Sabha 3. The Lok Sabha 4. Powers of the Parliament. The Speaker.
- Introduction to the Parliament of India
- The Rajya Sabha (Parliament)
- The Lok Sabha (Parliament)
- Powers of the Parliament
- The Speaker (Parliament)
1. Introduction to the Parliament of India:
Article 79 of the Constitution of India provides that there shall be Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be respectively known as the Council of States and the House of the People.
Thus, the Constitution has stipulated a bicameral system of legislature in which Indian Parliament consists of two Houses. Whereas the Rajya Sabha is Upper House, the Lok Sabha is Lower House of Parliament. The former is a permanent House in the sense that it cannot be dissolved, unlike latter i.e., the Lok Sabha, which has a fixed term of five years unless dissolved earlier.
The Lok Sabha consists of representatives directly elected by the people on the basis of universal adult franchise, except of course in the case of Anglo-Indian community, whose two representatives can be nominated in that House, when the President is satisfied that that community has not been properly represented. This nomination has so far been made in the case of all the ten Lok Sabhas.
2. The Rajya Sabha:
The Rajya Sabha, as already mentioned, is Upper House of Indian Parliament. Article SO of the constitution provides that the Council of States shall consist of 12 members to be nominated by the President in accordance with the provisions of clause (3) and not more than two hundred and thirty-eight representatives of the states and of the Union Territories.
It is also provided that allocation of seats in the Council of States to be filled in by the representatives of states and Union Territories shall be as contained in the Fourth Schedule to the constitution.
Clause (3) of the constitution also, provides that the members to be nominated by the President shall be those who have special know ledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social services.
The constitution also provides that the representatives of each state in the Council of States shall be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the state in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
The composition of the Rajya Sabha, in term of number of seats to each state has been changing, because from time to time the states have been reorganised. Members from the Union Territories are chosen in such a manner as the Parliament may decide by law. The basis of the composition, i.e., number of representatives to be elected from each State has been fixed keeping in view the population of each Slate.
Thus, each State has not been given equal representation, as is the case with the Senate of the USA where each state, big or small, is represented by two representatives or Swiss Upper House in which two representatives each come from full Canton and one member each from half Canton.
By and large, a state is given representation on the basis of one member for each million of the first five millions of its population and thereafter only one seat after every additional two millions.
Position in respect of seats allocated to each State in Rajya Sabha now is as follows:
Of course, the Constitution provides that twelve members to be nominated by the President shall be those who have earned a name and lame in the field of science, art, literature and social services, yet sometimes nomination to the Rajya Sabha are made of the persons who are likely to politically support the Prime Minister and of those who have already been inducted in the cabinet but are not being asked by the party bosses to contest the Lok Sabha seat within a stipulated period of 6 months, due to one reason or the other.
Even otherwise it is said about the membership of this House that “It is a House of party pocket boroughs of various political parties to send their second rate party leaders who may be indispensable to the parties but unacceptable to the adult electorate.”
The Rajya Sabha is a continuing body and 1/3 of its member retire after even 2 years. Thus, each member is elected for a term of 6 years. Though it is expected that the members should be elected on the basis of interests of the state, yet in actual practice all elections are held on party lines.
Party position in the Rajya Sabha as on 1.1.1995 was as under:
(a) Telugu Desam 1; CPI (1); Telugu Desham II (1)
(b) Assam Gana Parishad 1
(c) CPI 3
(e) Shiv Sena 1
(f) H.S. P.D.P 1
(g) Nagaland People’s Council 1
(h) Rashtriya Janata Dal 1
(i) Sikkim Sangram Parishad 1
(j) AIDMK 6, D M K 8
(k) Samajwadi Party 5; Bahujan Samaj Party 1; Rashtriya Janata Dal 1
(l) RSP 1; CPI 1; FB 2; Rashtriya Janata Dal 1
Qualifications of Members:
The Rajya Sabha being Upper House of Parliament it is expected of it that its members should be comparatively sober and atmosphere in the House calm. The constitution provides that a person who wants to become a member of the House should be citizen of India and not less than 30 years of age. He should be an elector for a parliamentary constituency of the state from which he is to be returned to the House.
He should not hold any office of profit either in the central or state government. He should be of sound mind and not be an alien. He also should not have been declared unqualified for membership by any court of law. He should neither have voluntarily acquired citizenship of any foreign country nor agreed to owe allegiance to any foreign power.
After his election to the Rajya Sabha a member shall ordinarily continue to be a member for a period of 6 years but his seat shall fall vacant after he has tendered his resignation or incurred some disqualification which disqualifies him from the membership of the Rajya Sabha.
He cannot simultaneously hold membership of the Lok Sabha. In case he becomes a member of the other House at any stage, he will have to give up the membership of either House of Parliament.
This also applies to the membership of state legislature as well. He will also cease to be member of the Rajya Sabha in case he remains absent from the sittings of the House continuous!;- for 60 days without the permission of the Presiding Officer of the House. He shall also cease to be a member, if the House on account of his unbecoming conduct, decides to expel him from the House as a matter of punishment.
Since the time the constitution came into force and since the days when Representation of People Act was passed the provision that only a person who is an elector of a parliamentary constituency in a state can be chosen as a representative of that state in the Rajya Sabha was not strictly adhered to and political parties nominated a person to the Rajya Sabha from a state from which it could return him/her with the support of party MLAs, no matter whether the person concerned was ordinarily resident of that state or not.
When T.N. Seshan became Chief Election Commissioner he laid stress on this provision of the Representation of People Act, 1950 and decided to examine whether some members of the Rajya Sabha, including Finance Minister Man Mohan Singh, who was representing Assam in the Rajya Sabha with the support of ruling party, were ordinarily residents of the states which they claim to represent and for which they had submitted affidavits.
This of course, posed problem for sometime and embarrassment to these members as well, though ultimately none of them was affected. But an issue has been thrown open for consideration, which can be raised by some one else at some latter stage.
The Representation of People Act, 1951 stipulates that only a person who is an elector of a parliamentary constituency in a state can be chosen as a representative of that state in the Rajya Sabha.
One of the conditions of elector in a constituency stipulated by the Representation of People Act, 1951 is that a person shall be ‘ordinarily resident’ in that constituency but the Act does not give precise meaning of the words ‘Ordinarily Resident’ but say that the fact of owning or being in possession of dwelling house in a constituency is not enough.
The word ‘ordinarily’ means normally or usually but not in-variably. In some cases it is very difficult to decide whether a person is ordinarily resident in a particular place or not. Thus, the Act lacks clarity and precision. No one, thus, can be penalised for non- clarity or non-precision in law.
Moreover, any such enquiry by any authority responsible for conduct of elections for the membership of the Rajya Sabha is bound to stand on the way of persuation of eminent persons known for their expertise in different fields to join Parliament and help in improving administration on the one hand and cleaning corrupt elements from politics on the other.
Meetings of the Rajya Sabha:
The meetings of the Rajya Sabha are presided over by Vice-President of India, who is ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Like his counter part in the USA, the Vice-President of India is not the member of the Rajya Sabha and as such he does not enjoy any voting power or right, but he has casting vote in case of a tie and when the House is equally divided on any issue. As presiding officer of the House, he is required to maintain decorum and discipline in the House.
He allows the members to speak and disposes of all the points of order which are raised in the House. When he is on his legs nobody else is supposed to stand in the House. Any item in the House can be discussed only with his permission.
He recognises the members on the floor of the House. It may, however, be remembered that though the Vice-President of India is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha yet he is not elected by that House alone. His election procedure has already been discussed separately.
But at times the Chairman is not in a position to preside over the meetings of House due to one or several reasons. In his absence, the meetings are presided over by Vice-Chairman, who of course is elected by the Rajya Sabha from amongst its own members.
When both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman are not available to preside, available member from the panel of chairmen presides. Deputy Chairman obviously holds office as long as he is member of the Rajya Sabha. As soon as he ceases to be a member of the House, he also vacates that office.
The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha can be removed from his office by a Resolution of the Rajya Sabha, which is also approved by the Lok Sabha. When such a resolution is under discussion he is provided an opportunity to participate in the discussions but cannot vote.
In addition, when such a charge of removal is levied against the Vice-President, he leaves the chair when the resolution is under consideration of the House.
Each member of the House is elected for a period of 6 years, 1/3 of them retire after every two years. Each member is required to take an oath an allegiance to the constitution. 1/10th of total membership of the House constitutes quorum for holding meetings of the House.
Functions and Powers of the Rajya Sabha:
Rajya Sabha, being Upper House of Indian Parliament, does not possess co-equal powers with the Lok Sabha in money matters which is Lower House of Union Parliament. In financial matters it has much less powers than the Lok Sabha. In non-money matters both the Houses have co-equal powers. A non-money bill can be moved in either House of Parliament.
In fact, when the government feels that the work with the Lok Sabha is heavy, it introduces non-money bills in the Rajya Sabha, so that all discussions and heat which usually is generated on a new bill, finds its expression in that House and comparatively less time of the Lok Sabha is consumed over such bills.
Every non-money bill must be passed by both the Houses of Parliament before it can be sent to the President for his approval. In that regard both the Houses are at par.
There can, however, be disagreement between the two Houses on any non-money bill. In order to solve that the President can call for a joint sitting of both the Houses. In this connection it may be pointed out that in India there is no system of conciliation committee as that obtains in the USA, under which such disputed matters are referred to such a committee, on which both the Houses have equal representation and whose decision is treated as final. In that country Senators having more glamour and longer tenure, usually carry the day.
The position is also not like the one prevailing m England where the House of Lords has the power to delay the matters Nit is ultimately forced to agree to what has been proposed by the Commons. In India, the position is somewhat different because the Rajya Sabha is neither so weak as the House of Lords in England, nor so powerful as the Senate in the USA.
But even then the position of the Rajya Sabha in a joint session is not as strong as that of the Lok Sabha. It is because numerical strength of the Lok Sabha is more than that of the Rajya Sabha and in case of any voting the former is likely to win, because each House is likely to vote in its own favour to save its prestige.
The Lok Sabha has advantage in another respect also, because in such a joint session Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides. Not only this, but it is the Council of Ministers which decides whether on a controversial matter view point of the Rajya Sabha is to be adjusted and whether such a matter is to be pursued or dropped.
Since the Council of Ministers is jointly and collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, therefore, it is likely to go with the view point of that House. Thus, in actual practice the Rajya Sabha can delay a non-money Bill for period of six months but cannot kill that, if the Lok Sabha is keen to see that through.
In so far as money matters are concerned, the Rajya Sabha is of course much weaker than the Lok Sabha and much less than the Senate of the USA. All money bills can originate only in the Lok Sabha. No money bill can originate in the Rajya Sabha. If a money bill passed by the Lok Sabha is sent to the Rajya Sabha that House can delay it for a period not exceeding 14 days.
In case a money bill is not returned within that period that will be treated to have been passed. In case, however, the Bill is returned within this period, with any suggestions or modifications, it is for the Lok Sabha to accept such changes or not, but in both the cases the money bill need not be returned to that House.
The Bill as passed by the Lower House for the second time will be treated to have been passed and sent to the President for his approval.
Control over Executive Government:
Then comes control over the executive government. In a parliamentary form of government the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lower House e.g., the House of Commons in England. In India also it is responsible to the Lok Sabha and not in the Rajya Sabha.
The Ministers appear before the Rajya Sabha, pilot non-money bills in that House, reply to all questions put on them, leave no one unturned to satisfy the members of the House, but if even in spite of all all as the members do not feel satisfied and move a vote of no-confidence against the Ministry, that will have no effect on the life of the government, even if such a motion is unanimously carried out.
All that the House can do is that it can express its dissatisfaction on government policies and programmes, can embarrass it but nothing beyond that.
But both the Houses have co-equal powers in so far as amendment of the constitution is concerned. India’s constitution has so far been amended as many as 80 times and several non-official amendments proposed by the members in both the Houses could not be carried out for want of government support. According to the constitution, it is provided that a constitutional amendment can be proposed in either House of Parliament.
Thus, in this regard there is no distinction between the two. It is also provided that such an amendment must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament by a majority of each House, as specified in the constitution, in each House. It may be remembered that there is no provision in the constitution by which a joint sitting of the House can be called to solve a deadlock on any constitutional amendment.
Both the Houses have co-equal powers in certain other matters as well, including election of the Vice-President of India, impeachment of the President and removal of the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts and also that of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
In another respect in which both the Houses have co-equal powers is the approval of the declaration of emergency in the country. Unless both the Houses approve, there can be no emergency declaration in the country.
If there is need for setting up martial law or suspension of fundamental rights, then also the approval of Rajya Sabha is unavoidable. Under the constitution Union Public Service Commission has a special status. It is expected to perform certain specific functions.
In case government decides to taken away some of the functions of the Commission or for that matter of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, for that the consent of the Rajya Sabha is as much needed as that of the Lok Sabha.
Exclusive Powers of the Rajya Sabha:
There are, however, certain fields in which the Rajya Sabha has exclusive rights. In India this House is supposed to represent the states. Under the constitution there are certain specific subjects which have been mentioned in the state list and it is the exclusive responsibility of the states to enact laws on the subjects mentioned in that list.
But the Rajya Sabha by a 2/3 majority, can pass a resolution that a particular subject mentioned in the state list may be transferred either to the central list or concurrent list, thereby depriving the states of its authority of legislation on the subject.
Article 249(2) of the constitution provides that such a resolution when passed by the Rajya Sabha shall remain in force for such period not exceeding one year, or as may be specified in the resolution. It is also provided that such a resolution shall continue to remain in force for a further period of one year from the date on which under this clause it would otherwise have ceased to be in force.
When such a resolution is passed by the- Rajya Sabha, then alone the Parliament becomes competent to pass any enactment on a matter so amended by the Rajya Sabha.
Article 312 of the constitution provides that the Rajya Sabha is entitled to create a new All India Service, by passing a resolution by 2/3 majority of the House, if it feels that creation of such a service is essential and needed in the national interest. It is also for the Rajya Sabha to regulate recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to any such service.
Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act dealt with All India Judicial Service. The amendment covered subordinate courts as well. It was provided that in this service posts not inferior to that of district judge shall be included.
It was also provided that law providing for the creation of the All India Judicial Service aforesaid may contain such provisions for the amendment of subordinate courts as may be necessary for giving effect to the provisions of that law and no such law deemed to be an amendment of this constitution for purposes of Article 368. In this way the powers of the states were effected.
Then it is left to the Rajya Sabha to initiate a proposal for the removal of Vice-President of India from his office. In addition, when emergency is in operation in the country and the Lok Sabha has been dissolved, it is left to the care of the Rajya Sabha to keep an eye on the activities of the government and to see that emergency powers are not misused.
Critical Study of a Working of the Rajya Sabha:
Now a question arises as to what is the real position of the Rajya Sabha. Is it really a House which is significantly contributing to the Indian political system or merely it is a House which has been created because India is a Union of States and a Union must have a bicameral system of legislature.
It was accepted even in the Constituent Assembly that in Indian Parliament centre of political activity shall be the Lok Sabha. But it was perhaps never the intention of constitution makers that the Rajya Sabha should be an appendage of the Lok Sabha, because had that been so, that House would not have been given some exclusive powers.
In the words of Pylee, “The Rajya Sabha is an important part governmental machinery and not an ornamental super-structure or an unessential adjucent.” With the passage of time in India, different political parties have been nominating politically mature persons for the Upper House who have earned name for their sincerity.
Same can be said about nominations made by the President. They are the persons who have significantly contributed in their respective fields and also have sound views on every bill which comes up for discussion.
Now comes controversial problem of representation of the states. Some critics argue that like any other federation, in India too the representatives are not chosen on the basis of those who represent the interests of the state, but on the basis of strength of political party in power in the state.
At the time of every binnial election the composition of the Rajya Sabha changes because the political party which is in power in the state at that time returns representatives belonging to it.
Thus they feel that the Rajya Sabha does not serve the basic purpose for which it was created. They argue that the members in the Rajya Sabha express their views on the basis of their party affiliations. Even if that is so and the argument is accepted then such a situation is unavoidable in our present day political system in which every institution must work on the basis of party affiliations.
The Rajya Sabha so far has refused to act as mere shadow of the Lok Sabha. As early as in 1953 it directed its member, who was then Law Minister of the government, not to associate himself with any activity of the Lok Sabha, as long as the House is given proper representation, along with the Lok Sabha on Public Accounts Committee.
The House persisted on this demand till Prime Minister Nehru intervened and agreed that the Rajya Sabha shall have seven representatives on the Committee. A year later in 1954 when N.C. Chatterjee, a Member of the Lok Sabha, called the Rajya Sabha as a pack of urchins and there was much resentment in the House. It was after great difficulty that the matter could be settled.
In 1963, the Rajya Sabha felt that an attempt was being made in the Lok Sabha to deprive it to discuss the budget before its discussion in that House. This was resented by the House. In 1961, it forcefully stuck to its views on Dowry Prohibition Bill, when in order to solve the problem a joint session of both the Houses was held and in that one of the two major recommendations of the Rajya Sabha were accepted.
In 1968, the Lok Sabha decided to refer Banking Companies (Amendment) Bill to a Select Committee of its own.
The Rajya Sabha resented this and demanded that a Bill of this nature should be referred to Joint Select Committee of both the Houses. In 1970, came Constitutional Twenty-Fourth Amendment Bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha.
It proposed abolition of Privy purses and privileges of Indian princes. It was a major issue, and the Rajya Sabha exerted itself and voted against it, and the amendment could not be carried out.
In 1977, Janata Party came to power in the Lok Sabha and formed its government. At that time Congress party was in majority in the Rajya Sabha. In April 1977, the Lok Sabha passed two measures which were sent to the Rajya Sabha for its approval.
The latter House suggested certain amendments, which were not acceptable to the government and the Home Minister decided that both these bills be allowed to lapse, rather than bowing to the pressure of the Rajya Sabha.
Again the Rajya Sabha asserted itself when it demanded that a copy of the charges of corruption, etc., against the family members of Prime Minister Desai and Home Minister Charan Singh should be placed on the Table of the House. For days together, it did not allow the government to proceed smoothly with its normal work.
In 1979, elections were again held in the country and on the basis of results declared in early 1980 Congress (I) formed government at the centre. At that time Janata Party was in majority in the Rajya Sabha. When a motion of thanks to the President for his address was sent to the Rajya Sabha, after its approval by the Lok Sabha, the former passed that in an amended form.
It was for the first time that in the history of Parliament in India that the Rajya Sabha amended a Presidential Address. In 1989, the Rajya Sabha forcefully raised its concern over Bofor Gun deal issue and made the working of the House difficult.
Again in the history of Indian Parliament several occasions have risen when the Rajya Sabha made amendments in the Bills passed by the Lok Sabha and thus acted as a true revisory body, which is one of the important functions of an Upper House.
The House has also helped the Lok Sabha to relieve it from some of the burden of its work. Several non-money bills are introduced in this House, which otherwise would have been introduced in the lower House and thus its burden of work would have considerably increased.
Even Constitutional Amendment Bills e.g., 40th Constitutional Amendment were introduced in the Rajya Sabha. In the absence of this House, it would always have been very difficult for the Lok Sabha to cope with heavy work load.
About the position of the Rajya Sabha Prof. K.V. Rao says. “An awkward situation may well arise if a government has slender majority in the Lok Sabha but to which a substantial majority of the Rajya Sabha is opposed, is defeated in a joint sitting of two Houses.”
As even one is aware that the Janata Party was quite keen that changes introduced by Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act, should be revoked .But it knew that in the Rajya Sabha Congress party was in power and as long as Rajya Sabha was not agreeable, constitution could not be amended. Accordingly it could amend the constitution only to the extent to which the Rajya Sabha agreed with government views.
Similarly Constitution 64th and 65th Amendment Bills could not be introduced in August 1989 session of the Rajya Sabha because at that time ruling Congress (I) did not have requisite two-thirds majority in the House. In October 1989 session when these Bills were introduced in the Rajya Sabha that House disapproved these and thus exerted its authority.
Thus, in India the Rajya Sabha has, to a great extent, justified its existence. Its role and responsibility is being now increasingly felt under changed circumstances. As long as Congress party was in power in both the Houses, there was not much of a problem, because it was sure that under party discipline the Rajya Sabha would agree to what is passed by the Lok Sabha.
But between 1977 and 1979 Janata party, and in 1989 again ruling Congress (I) felt the taste of Rajya Sabha power and existence when it was faced with a hostile Upper House. Similarly in 1980, Congress(I) which was in power in the Lok Sabha felt the punch of Rajya Sabha, where Janata Party was in power and this situation is now frequently arising.
Since P.V. Narsimha Rao government did not have requisite majority in the Rajya Sabha, it could not get some Constitution Amendment Bills passed, which otherwise it would like to have passed. It is said that the Rajya Sabha exerts itself only when the same political party which controls it is not in power in the Lok Sabha but not otherwise.
The Other Side of the Picture:
But there are many critics of the Rajya Sabha in India. They argue that Upper House of the Parliament has not come up to the expectations of the constitution makers. According to them founding fathers of the constitution wanted that the Rajya Sabha would have elderly persons as its members.
But in actual practice what has happened is that the average age of the Lok Sabha members and those of the members of Rajya Sabha has remained almost the same.
It was also expected that the Rajya Sabha will present the composition of the state legislatures, but that too has not happened. On the other hand, the members of the Rajya Sabha have been working on political basis rather than keeping interests of the states into consideration.
In effect the trend of discussions on important Bills, both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha has always been on party lines. Then it is argued that in the Rajya Sabha, on several occasions, political parties have provided membership to their disgruntled party leaders for their satisfaction, who otherwise could not be placed in any position of authority.
These critics also argue that founding fathers of the constitution also left certain inherent defects in the composition of the Rajya Sabha, for the reasons best known to them. By providing seats to each state in the Rajya Sabha, more or less on the basis of population, they aimed at giving more representation to bigger states like U.P., Maharashtra and Bihar than to small states and Union Territories.
Incidentally these for long remained Congress strong holds. They also allege that 12 members who are to be nominated by the President, will always side with the centre, firstly, because they represent no state, and secondly, because Central government will nominate a person who is not opposed to their policies and thus can tilt the balance in favour of centre, as against the interests of the states, at any time.
It was in 1973 that a senior Congress Member of the Lok Sabha, Bhibhuti Misra, moved a resolution in the Lok Sabha that Upper House should be abolished. He pointed out that even Gandhiji and Pt. Nehru supported unicameral legislature. He argued that membership of the Rajya Sabha was back door entry to Parliament.
According to him without this House it would have been easy for the Lok Sabha to implement its progressive programmes; like bank nationalisation and abolition of privy purses or to introduce far-reaching land reform measures. But the proposal was not supported by majority of the members who felt that a bicameral system of legislature was unavoidable for a federal polity.
In India the Rajya Sabha on the whole has held good reputation for high standard of debates on important issues and has also successfully delayed legislation on matter which might otherwise been the outcome of the passions of the moment.
It is not only the best constituted second chamber in the world but as Prof Jatendra Rajan once remarked, “It is also the most well balanced in its powers to fit in modem democracy and to serve the constitutional purpose which a second chamber in democracy is required to perform in the best possible manner.”
3. The Lok Sabha:
The Lok Sabha is Lower House of Indian Parliament. Article 81 of the constitution deals with the composition of this House. It had originally been provided that the Lok Sabha shall consist of not more than 500 members to be directly elected by the electorates from territorial constituencies of the states and not more than 25 members to be elected from the Union Territories.
It had also then been provided that each representative shall not represent less than 5 lakh or more than 7.5 lakh of population. But subsequently as the population increased, there were two alternatives open, namely, either to increase the size of the Lok sabha or to end the restriction that each representative shall not represent more than 7.5 lakh of population.
In 1953, Second Constitution Amendment Act was passed by which population restriction was done away with.
Now according to Art. 81 of the constitution the House of the People shall consist of not more than 530 members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the states and not more than 20 members to represent the Union Territories chosen in such manner as the Parliament may by law provide. At present membership of the Lok Sabha is 542.
It is also provided in the constitution in Article 81(2) that each state shall be allotted a number of seats in the Lok Sabha in such manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the state, in so far as possible shall be uniform for all the states.
In other words, for allocating number of seats the basis shall be uniform. Obviously in this arrangement the states which have more population shall have more seats, as compared with the states, which have less population.
In order to return the representatives each state shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such a manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it, shall as far as possible, be the same throughout the state.
Since the whole arrangement is based on population it was provided that population meant the population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures had been published.
This provision was, however, amended by Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act by which it was provided that the reference to this clause to the “last preceding census of which relevant figures have been published shall until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published”, be construed as reference to 1971 census.
The Lok Sabha consists of representatives directly elected by the people, but Article 331 of the constitution provides that in case the President is of the opinion that Anglo-Indian community has not been adequately represented in the Lok Sabha he may nominate not more than two members of that community in the House.
There is no specific nomination of the members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, by the President in the Lok Sabha, but from certain constituencies, which are notified in advance by the Election Commission, the members belonging to the scheduled castes and schedule tribes can only be returned. Thus, these castes and tribes get adequate and proper representation in the Lok Sabha.
Since in India census takes place after every decade and as a result of which population of the states increases necessitating adjustment of seats for the Lok Sabha and delimitation of constituencies, Article 82 of the constitution has, therefore, provided that upon the completion of each census the allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha to the states and division of each state into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted, provided that such readjustment shall have no effect on the representation in the House of the People until the dissolution of the existing House.
Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act, however, added a provision by which it was provided that such readjustment shall take effect from such date as the President may, by order specify and until such readjustment takes effect, any election to the House may be held on the basis of territorial constituencies existing before such adjustment.
This Act has also provided that until relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the allocation of seats to the states in the Lok Sabha and also the division of each state into territorial constituencies.
Under the existing laws reservation of seats for the members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha would have come to an end by January 1980. Forty-Fifth Constitution Amendment Act extended this period by another ten years. The government headed by V.P. Singh decided to extend this period by another 10 years i.e., up to the year 2000 A.D.
Since in India there is population explosion, a point has been made out that in case the number of seats in the Lok Sabha is not considerably increased, elected and voter ratio will go on increasing and the Lok Sabha shall not be a true representative body of the people.
In 1971, the then Chief Election Commissioner suggested that the strength of the Lok Sabha should be increased from 545 to 570. According to him this will serve the double purpose. On the one hand the electorates will have more and better chances to contact their members whereas on the other hand the members of Parliament shall have reasonably medium size constituency.
But this argument was countered by Dr. Nagendra Singh, who said that the strength of the Lok sabha should not be increased. He argued that whether the population of constituency was less or more did not in any way effect the touring of the member.
According to him the strength of the House of Commons in England since 1832 has practically remained the same though the population of the country has increased from 15 to 55 million.
It is also argued that even if the population increases there is a marginal difference in so far as contact with the masses is concerned, because only few people personally contact Members of the Lok Sabha. But so far the position is that the size of the Lok Sabha has not been increased beyond 545.
Elections for the Ninth Lok Sabha were held between 22-26 November, 1989, as a result of which the ruing Congress (I) was dislodged from power.
Party position in the Lok Sabha, as on 1.12.1989 was as under:
Elections to the Lok Sabha were held in 1991 after the down fall of V.P. Singh government. This time Congress party was returned as the single – largest party which also formed the government, but not with absolute majority of its own. It was, however, subsequently that members belonging to other political parties joined it.
Party position in the Lok Sabha as on 1.1.95 was under:
(a) All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeem 1
(b) Autonomous State Demand Committee 1; Assam Gana Parishad 1
(c) Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 6
(d) Indian Congress (Socialist) 1 ; Muslim League 2; Kerala Congress (M) 1.
(e) Bahujan Samaj Party 1.
(f) Shiv Sena 2
(g) Mani Pur People’s Party 1
(h) Bahujan Samaj Party 1
(i) Sikkim Sangram Parishad 1 (J) AIADMK 12
(k) Janata Party 1; Smajwadi Party 3; Bahujan Samaj Party 1.
(l) All India Forward Bloc 3; Revolutionary Socialist Party 4. As already said in the Lok Sabha there are certain number of constituencies which have reserved for the member of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and those belonging to these communities can only be returned from these constituencies.
Election Schedule for Constituting eleventh Lok Sabha was announced on27th March, 1996 and formal notification was issued by the President of India on 27th March, 1996. The position as it emerged after Lok Sabha election is shown in a separate chapter.
Qualifications for Membership of Lok Sabha:
Elections to the Lok Sabha are held on the basis of universal adult franchise in which every citizen of India is eligible to cast his/her vote without sex or property qualifications on the one hand and caste and educational qualifications creed on the other, provided one possesses the following qualifications:
(a) He is citizen of India,
(b) He is not less than 25 years of age,
(c) He has resided in the constituency for a minimum period as prescribed by law,
(d) He should not be of unsound mind,
(e) He should not otherwise be disqualified to become a member of the Lok Sabha,
(f) He should not hold any office of profit either in the central or in the service of state government,
(g) He should subscribe that he owes allegiance to the Constitution of India and will uphold country’s unity and integrity.
Article 102 of the constitution deals with disqualifications for membership of the Lok Sabha. Sub-clause (a) of this Article provides that a person shall become disqualified to hold membership of either House of Parliament if he holds an office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder.
A person will also disqualify himself of the membership of the House if:
(a) He is guilty of corrupt practices in election under Representation of People’s Act.
(b) If he is convicted of an offence resulting in imprisonment of two or more years.
(c) He has failed to lodge an account for the election offences.
(d) If he has an interest or share in the contract for supply of goods or any execution of any work or performance of a service to government.
(e) If he is working as Director or Managing Agent or holding an office of profit in a corporation in which government has 25% shares.
(f) If he has been dismissed from government service on the charges of corruption or disloyalty to the state.
(g) If he is a person of unsound mind or a bankrupt declared by a court.
(h) If he is an alien i.e., not a citizen of India.
This sub-clause of the constitution was amended by Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act which provided that a person shall disqualify himself for membership provided he holds an office of profit under the Government of India or the State Government as is declared by Parliament by law to disqualify its holders.
In the words of Dr. Singh, “The object of the provision is to secure independence of Members of Parliament and to ensure that Parliament does not contain persons who have received favours or benefits from the executive and who, consequently, being under an obligation to the executive might be amenable to its influence.”
The term ‘office of profit’ has not been defined anywhere in the constitution. But it is by and large accepted that office means a fixed office capable of yielding a profit or from which a person might reasonably be expected to make a profit, but the amount of profit is immaterial.
Article 103 of the constitution deals with authority which is to decide whether a person has disqualified himself/herself for the membership of the House or not.
This Article provides that the question shall be referred for the decision of the President and his decisions shall be final. It is .also provided that before giving his decision the President shall obtain the opinion of Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.
Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act modified this and provided that:
If any questions arises:
(a) As the whether a member of either House of Parliament has become subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in clause (i) of Article 102 or
(b) As to whether a person, found guilty of corrupt practice at an election to a House of Parliament under any law made by Parliament, shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament or of a House of Legislature of a State, or as to the period for which he shall be so disqualified, or as to the removal of or the reduction of the period of, such disqualification, the question shall be referred for the decision of the President and his decision shall be final.
(2) Before giving any such decision on any such question, the President shall consult Election Commission and the Election Commission may, for this purpose make such enquiry as it thinks fit.
But Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act has again restored the original position and omitted the change made by Forty -Second Constitution Amendment Act in so far as this Article is concerned.
There can be no simultaneous membership. A person who is elected to the Lok Sabha. shall have to vacate his seat of either the Rajya Sabha or any state legislature, of which he might happen to be a member. His seat will be deemed to have become vacant as soon as he ceases to be Indian citizen or has incurred such other disqualification for the membership of the House, as ma> be prescribed by law.
He can resign his seat any time after writing a letter of resignation to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. His seat in the House will be treated as vacant if he remains absent from the House continuously for 60 days without obtaining Speaker’s permission or he has been found guilty of using corrupt practices in the election.
He will vacate his seat if he has been convicted by a court of law for any offence and sentenced to imprisonment by it for a period of not less than two years.
Under it Representation People’s Act 1951, a member of the Lok Sabha shall be required to vacate his seat if he fails to send his election returns within specified period of time or when dismissed for disloyalty to the nation while in service or it has been established that he has interest in government contracts and uses his position to promote his commercial interests.
Dissolution of the Lok Sabha:
Article 83 of the constitution has fixed normal life of Lok Sabha at 5 year, unless of course the House is dissolved earlier by the President, when he is satisfied that it is not possible for the country to have a stable government with the present composition of the House or when the Prime Minister has advised the President to dissolve the House.
The House was dissolved on the advice of the Prime Minister before completion of its normal term in 1971 and 1977, whereas in 1979 it had to be dissolved because of instable political conditions. In 1989, Lok Sabha was dissolved in November of that year, whereas its normal term of 5 years was to end in January, 1990.
In 1991, elections for the Lok Sabha had again to be held because ninth Lok Sabha constituted hardly a year earlier had to be dissolved when V.P. Singh government resigned after remaining in power for about 1 year.
With Forty- Second Constitution Amendment Act normal life of the House was increased from 5 to 6 years and it was provided that the life of the then existing House will also stand increased to 6 years. But with the passing of Forty-Four Constitution Amendment Act, the life of the Lok Sabha, including that of the then existing House was reduced to 5 years.
In 1979, when the Lok Sabha was dissolved an unprecedented situation arose. In an Indian State, when the President is satisfied that state administration cannot be run in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, the House is dissolved and the state administration is run by the Governor, as the representative of the President.
In order to assist him some advisers are also appointed. But in 1979 Charan Singh, the then Prime Minister resigned without facing the Lok Sabha and President in turn dissolved the House.
In the constitution there being no provision of the appointing an adviser or such a situation having not arisen earlier a question that arose was who should run the country, till new Lok Sabha is convened. There is of course convention of a care-taker government at the centre, but that is for a very short period.
But in this care the period was sure to be long and the government saddled in authority was to get the elections conducted. The President decided to let Charan Singh and his government continue as care-taker government, till the time new government was installed. It was made clear that the government was not to take any policy decision.
It evoked a lot of controversy in the political circles, particularly by the opposition on the following grounds:
(a) How could a person ran the government who has not faced the Lok Sabha for even a single day and resigned on the ground that he did not command the majority of the House?
(b) How could it be expected of such a government to arrange free and frank elections in the country, when fortunes of the Prime Minister and his party are at stake, particularly when the country’s political situation is very fluid?
(c) Who was to decide what was a policy and non-policy decision and what were the guarantees that policy decisions taken by such a government shall be implemented? In fact, care-taker government took important policy decisions e.g., payment of bonus to railway and postal employees.
(d) What should be the duration of a care-taker government?
In 1989, when the then ruling party leader and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi resigned, he was asked by the President to continue as care taker Prime Minister. This time no eye brows were raised because elections for the ninth Lok Sabha has already been held and new government was to be formed within next few days.
On the advise of the Prime Minister, the President summons, prorogues as well as dissolves the Parliament, dissolution of course being in the case of the Lok Sabha alone. But according to Article 85 of the constitution 6 months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.
In this connection it may be pointed out that prorogation is different from adjournment, because adjournment’ does not end the session but suspends the sittings of the House, whereas proroguing is the act of terminating the parliamentary session. Then whereas the House adjourns with the decision of the House only, it is prorogued by President.
In India each budget session of Parliament begins with an address of the President, who in his budget speech outlines the policies and programmes of the government in the year to come. Such a speech is prepared by the government and at the end if no vote of thanks is passed by the Lok Sabha, for the President for his addressing the joint session, that means a vote of no-confidence against the government.
Article 86 of the Constitution provides that the President may address either or both the Houses of Parliament and can also send messages to either House of Parliament for considering Bill then pending lying with it. It is obligatory on the Part of the Parliament to consider such messages.
Powers and Functions of the Lok Sabha:
The Lok Sabha being the Lower House of the Parliament and consisting of directly elected representatives of the people has comparatively more powers than the Rajya Sabha which consists of indirectly elected or nominated members.
Both the money as well as non-money bills can be introduced in the Lok Sabha. Though non-money bills can also be introduced in the Raiya Sabha as well but money bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha. Whether a Bill is a money or non-money Bill, will be decided by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, whose decision shall be final.
As already pointed out a money bill, when passed by the Lok Sabha, is sent to the Upper House – which mast return it with or without comments within a period of 14 days. In case the Bill is not received back within this specified period, it is treated to have been passed.
In case the Bill is received with some modifications which are not accepted by the Lok Sabha, that need not be sent back to the Rajya Sabha but is sent direct to President for his approval. The procedure about non-money bills, where a joint sittings of both the Houses is to be called to settle the differences, but in money matters Lok Sabha has got absolute powers.
It is’ the custodian of national purse and watch keeper of country’s income and expenditure.
In this connection it may also be pointed out that India is over centralised federation and the Parliament has powers to enact laws on the subjects mentioned both in the central as well as concurrent lists. In addition, the Parliament is also empowered to legislate on the residuary subjects.
Several times the State Assemblies in India had to be dissolved because of breakdown of constitutional machinery. In such a situation administration of the state, for all practical purposes, during this period is taken over by the Parliament, which in effect means by the Lok Sabha.
Then comes control over the executive. Under the constitution the Council of Ministers is jointly and collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. It can remain in position and authority only as long as it enjoys the confidence of the majority of the House. As soon as the confidence is lost the Ministry is supposed to resign.
The Lok Sabha exercises this control in several ways. It keeps the Minister on his toes during the question hour, by raising half an hour discussion, by moving adjournment motions and criticising government’s policies and programmes at the time of budget.
But difficult time for the government comes when opposition in the Lok Sabha moves a vote of no-confidence against the government. During the period when the motion of no-confidence is under discussion, the opposition launches frontal attack on the government on ground of failure of policies.
It badly criticises its policies and exposes its weaknesses, faults and faltering’s. On its own side the government defends its policies and if at the end the motion is successfully carried the government is forced to resign.
In the history of Indian Parliament votes of no-confidence against the government have been moved several times, but it was only in 1979 when as a result of motion of no-confidence moved by leader of the opposition Y.B. Chavan, the then Desai Government resigned, though formally the motion was not put to vote.
Similarly in Chaudhry Charan Singh as Prime Minister did not face the Lok Sabha when he was sure that vote of no confidence against his government will be passed on the floor of the House.
The Lok Sabha has also electoral functions to perform. In the election of the President the Lok Sabha is an integral part of the electoral college, which is constituted to elect him.
Since the votes of the members of all the State Assemblies for the election of the President have been equated with those of the members of the Parliament therefore, the role of the Lok Sabha in the election process is very important and significant. Similarly, electoral functions of the Lok Sabha also came to focus, when it sits, in a joint sitting, with the members of the Rajya Sabha, for the election of the Vice-President of India.
Ventilating of Grievances:
The Lok Sabha has the important function of removing and ventilating the grievances of the people. The members of the Lok Sabha are supposed to be in contact with their electorates. Several times the constituents individually or collectively approach MPs with their grievances and problems which the constituency in particularly and the country in general faces.
It is function of Lok Sabha to express and discuss these on the floor of the House and force the government to face the situation realistically, rather than remaining in the air. Each Ministry has an informal consultative committee attached to it. It is in the meeting of these committees that the members discuss particular problems concerned with that Ministry.
Other Functions : Some other important functions of the Lok Sabha, of course, along with the Rajya Sabha are to amend the constitution as and when such a need and necessity arise.
It sits as a court of law when it discusses motion for the removal of judges of Supreme Court and High Courts or disposes of a motion of impeachment against the President of India. Its approval is also needed for the removal of Vice-President of India and also that of proclamation of emergency made by the President.
Thus, the Lok Sabha has wide and vast functions to perform. It is, however, important duty of the members of this House to politically educate the people and make them conscious of their role and responsibility as citizens of India.
India enters into international treaties from time to time. These treaties cast certain obligations on the people of India. It is the responsibility of the Lok Sabha to take that adequate steps for discharging these obligations. The Lok Sabha can also legislate on a subject which though in the central or state list, but for which a request has been made to it by two or more states.
It enacts laws for the whole country when there is a national emergency. When the Rajya Sabha has passed a resolution that a particular subject may be transferred from state to the central or concurrent list, that empowers the Lok Sabha to legislate on that as well.
Along with the Rajya Sabha, the Lower House can amend the constitution. In fact, all important Constitutional Amendment Bills have so far been introduced in the Lok Sabha. It is after the approval of this House that these are sent to the Rajya Sabha for its approval.
Being custodian of national finances it controls Contingency Fund of India and can borrow money from foreign nations as well as. It empowers the Reserve Bank of India to raise loans from Indian public. Needless to says that this House decides about the taxes which should be levied and those already in force should be reduced or abolished.
The Lok Sabha being an independent House lays down rules of procedure for the conduct of its own business and decides about the way in which it shall see that work goes on unhindered.
4. Powers of the Parliament:
Combined together both the Houses of Indian Parliament i.e., the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have thus vast powers. The Indian Parliament can admit into the Union any new state or area and can also change the boundaries of the existing states. In other words it can increase or decrease the area of any of the existing state.
It determines salaries and allowances of Ministers and public servants. It can extend its life by one year during the period of emergency but not exceeding 6 months in any case, after the emergency has ceased to operate.
It is also left to the Parliament to decide under what circumstances should a person or group of persons be detained for a period of more than 3 months.
Under Article 169 of the constitution it is provided that Parliament can abolish Legislative Council of a state or can create one, where it is already not in existence, provided a resolution to that effect is passed by the State Assembly concerned by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.
Under article 105 of the constitution it is the responsibility of the Parliament to define its powers, privileges and immunities until these are codified by law, these should be those which are available to the members of the House of Commons in England. Since at present these have not been codified these remain the same as are those of members of the House of Commons in England.
The Parliament can set up a High Court for any Union Territory and can also set up more additional courts or increase the strength of the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts, if it so feels that for proper administration of justice that is necessary. It can adjudicate on any dispute with respect to the use, control or distribution of waters or in any inter-state river valley dispute.
It decides about the qualifications of the members as well as manner in which Finance Commission should be appointed and the date on which it should start functioning. In the public interest the Parliament is fully empowered to impose restrictions on freedom of trade, or commerce between one state or another or within any part of the territory of India.
On the request of states concerned it can create joint Public Service Commissions and can also pass resolutions for the delimitation of constituencies and preparation of electoral rolls in a manner that constitution of Houses of Parliament becomes both easy as well as the Parliament becomes a more representative body.
It also decides for how long English should continue along with Hindi, in India, for official purposes. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to decide for how long special rights given to schedules castes and scheduled tribes should be continued and which caste and tribe should be removed from or added to the schedule.
In this connection it may be pointed out that scheduling and de-scheduling is a very difficult problem, because those in the schedule, both as the members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, enjoy certain privileges, which are not enjoyed by other citizens of India. Thus, whereas it is the desire of many castes and tribes to join the schedules none is prepared to go out of that.
Powers of Parliament are enjoyed by both the Houses, i.e., both by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, collectively. But as already pointed out the Upper House of Parliament is much weaker than the Lower House, particularly in financial matters on the one hand and in exercising effective control over the executive on the other.
But constitution makers did not wish that this House should be as weak as the House of Lords in England or as powerful as the Senate in the U.S.A. The framers of the constitution wanted that both the Houses should have co-equal powers, except in financial matters and as already said the Rajya Sabha has justified its existence fully well.
For the conduct of business the constitution has provided that for a meeting of either House of Parliament there shall be a quorum which shall be 1/10 of the total members of the House. In case there is no quorum at any stage, the presiding officer of the House may suspend the meeting till such time that there is a quorum.
Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act omitted both these sub-clauses 3 and 4 of Article 100, which dealt with this issue, i.e., quorum of the House. But sub-clauses 3 and 4 of Article 100 have, however, again been restored.
5. The Speaker:
Appointment of the Speaker:
Presiding officer of the Lok Sabha is called Speaker. Like many other institutions, the institution of ‘Speakership’ has also been borrowed from England, where it started as early as in 1377.
At that time the Speaker used to be a courageous person who could displease both the King as well as the Commons, because he used to carry the petition of the Commons to the displeasure of the King and orders of the monarch to the annoyance of the Commons. His task was difficult.
But as the time passed the Commons grew more and more powerful and with that the dignity and authority of the Speaker began to increase. He became the custodian of rights and privileges of the Commons.
In India first Speaker was appointed by the Governor-General. This honour was bestowed on Sir Fedrick Whyte. He was a very able parliamentarian and set up many healthy traditions. First Indian Speaker was Sardar Vithal Bhai Patel. He always maintained that the only authority to guide and control him was the Assembly, and none else.
He endeavoured his best to see that there was no intervention in the affairs of the House from any quarter. He even closed down visitors gallery when he saw police in the precincts of the House and in the galleries without his permission.
He resigned in frustration when he saw that the government was not allowing him to function without interference. He set many healthy traditions and made the Assembly realise that it was an independent House and the Speaker was custodian of their rights and privileges.
He was followed by able successors, last of the pre-independence era being Speaker Mavlankar. He was incidentally the first Speaker of the House of the people after independence as well.
He was very able Speaker. In the words of Dr. Rao, “The period of consolidation gave way to new period of development only in 1946 with the election of Mr. Mavlankar.” Pt. Nehru always stressed that the office of the Speaker should always be held by persons of great dignity who were known for their integrity.
As early as in 1953 he said, “The Speaker represents the House. He represents the dignity of the House and because the House represents the nation in a particular way, the Speaker betimes the symbol of nation’s liberty and freedom.”
The Speaker, according to Article 93 of the constitution, is to be elected by the Lok Sabha. which House is also to elect a Deputy Speaker, as well. Tire latter will preside over the meetings of the House in the absence of the Speaker.
Only a member of the House can hold the office of the Speaker. For whatever reason, if the person holding the office of the Speaker ceases to be a member of the House, he shall also cease to be Speaker as well.
The Speaker once elected can be removed only by a resolution of the House for which 14days notice is necessary. Such a notice should specify the charges against him. He can be removed on the allegations that he conducted himself or the business of the House in a manner which had brought down dignity and honour of the House.
When a resolution for the removal of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker is under consideration, the officer concerned is not to preside over the sittings of the House, even though he may be present. He, however, has a right to participate in the proceedings and to clarify his position. He can also vote but not use his casting vote. Ordinarily he has not been given the right to vote but can exercise his casting vote.
Unless removed earlier, the Speaker will hold office till his successor is appointed. Even he does not cease to be a Speaker with the dissolution of the House. Under the constitution there is no bar for his seeking re-election to the office of the Speaker. Some of the Speakers even got re-elected both in the state Assemblies and the Lok Sabha.
India so far has had distinguished Speakers like:
First Central Legislative: Sir Fredrick Whyte
Assembly Second Central Legislative Assembly: V.J. Patel
Third Central Legislative Assembly: V.J. Patel and Maulvi Mohd. Yakub
Fourth Central Legislative Assembly: Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola and Sir Shanmukham Chetty
Fifth Central Legislative Assembly: Abdur Rahim
Sixth Central Legislative Assembly: G.V. Mavlankar
Lok Sabha Speakers:
G.V.Mavlankar -G.S. Dhillon
M.A. Ayyanger – B.R. Bhagat
S. Hukam Singh -N. Sanjiva Reddy
N. Sanjiva Reddy- K.S. Hedge
Balram Jakhar- Rabi Ray
Shiv Raj Patil. – P.A. Sangma
So far no Speaker in India has been removed from office by an adverse resolution of the House. But Speaker Mr. N. Sanjiva Reddy resigned as Speaker of the Lok Sabha to become the President of India.
The Speaker in India gets such monthly salary and fixed allowances as may be specified by Parliament by law. He also gets free medical facilities. In order to keep the Speaker away from the criticism of the House his salary and allowances are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
Functions and Power of the Speaker:
The Speakers of the Lok Sabha enjoys very wide and extensive powers. His foremost duty is to see that there is decorum and discipline in the House and that the business of the House is conducted in an orderly manner and in accordance with the wishes of the House. This is becoming increasingly difficult day-by-day because clashes between the party in power and those in opposition are quite frequent.
In addition to this, some of the members behave in a disorderly manner and defy the authority of the Chair by either not leaving the House when asked to do so or by refusing to stop speaking when so directed.
There is also noise in the House which retards smooth working of the House. Then it is the responsibility of the Speaker to see that those who behave in a disorderly manner are punished. This can be done by pulling the member to behave properly or by way of admonishing misbehaving members.
If he still persists he can even be asked to leave the House. In case he refuses to do so, the services of Marshall can be called to exit him from the House.
The Speaker is the only authority to decide who shall hold the floor and speak. All members simply try to catch the eye of the Speaker. While allowing the members to speak, care is, of course, taken to see that if the leader of the party wants to speak, he is given first preference. He is to see that all political parties get sufficient time to vindicate their view point, so that there is no dissatisfaction among the members.
The Speaker decides about the time which should be allotted for discussion of each item on the agenda. Of course, he is assisted in this by the Business Advisory Committee of the House.
His authority in the precincts of the House and over the galleries is final. No person can enter within the four walls of the House or galleries without his permission. He decides when the galleries should be cleared of the visitors and the House should meet in camera. He punishes all those who misbehave in any way from visitors gallery.
As presiding officer of the House, the Speaker decides what should appear in the proceedings of the House. He is to see that there is faithful recording of what had been happening in the House and the proceedings are made as quickly available to the people as these can be. At the same time he is to see that nothing wrong goes in the proceedings. Objectionable matters are expunged by his orders.
He is the custodian of rights and privileges of the members of the Lok Sabha and all members of the House look towards him for protection and he ensures that these are fully protected. It is to be ensured by him that there is no malicious criticism by the government, press or any outsider of the members in their individual and collective capacity while performing their parliamentary duties.
Since the powers, privileges and immunities of Members of Parliament in India have remained un-codified so far, this task has become very difficult. But the Speaker is to ensure that no section of the society should feel that the privileges of the House are being used to their disadvantage.
The Speaker certifies whether a particular bill is a money or a non-money bill. It is important because once the Speaker certifies that a particular bill is a money bill then that cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha and that House cannot delay its passage for a period of more than 14 days only.
Whenever there is a joint meeting of both the Houses of Parliament, the Speaker, and not the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha presides over such meetings.
In the House when the Speaker is on his legs, all members are supposed to sit down and listen to him patiently. If any member continues to stand that is to be treated as affront to Speaker’s dignity.
All the members are supposed to address him only, while participating in the debate. They cannot address each other or to the Treasury Benches. He decides all points of order raised during the course of discussion and his decision is binding on all.
Then comes question hour. Many members give notice of their intention to put questions. The time is always limited, as compared with the number of questions to be answered. The Speaker decides which question should or should not be admitted.
While admitting a question he is to see that the reply shall not compel the government to divulge an information, which otherwise is not in the public interest to be disclosed, that the labour involved in the collection of information will commensurate with the information to be supplied, that the information will not spoil country’s relations unnecessarily with any foreign power and so on.
Similarly only the Speaker allows Half an Hour discussion and admits adjournment motions. A vote of no-confidence against the government is also admitted by him.
These days quite a good business of the House is done by the committees which are now playing a very important role in the transaction of parliamentary business. It is, therefore, essential that the committees should be so constituted that all political parties are fully presented on these.
The Speaker nominates chairman and members of these committees which submit their reports to him to cause these to be placed before the House. When Speaker is a member of any committee he presides over its meetings.
The Speaker admits all resolutions for discussion and decides when a discussion on a bill under consideration of the House should be discontinued. He ensures that no member, during the course of discussion indulges in tedious repetition of his arguments or unnecessarily casts aspersions on his colleagues or on the other those or on all House who are unable to defend themselves on the floor of the House.
The Speaker is the channel through which all communications between the House and the President must pass. Several times opposition parties demand that a particular motion be put to vote. The Speaker puts these motions to vote and also announces the result of the voting.
In case there is a tie, he casts his vote to decide the issue. Again it is a Speaker’s discretion to allow a member to speak in a language, which is other than English and Hindi and get the speech translated, to the advantage of all the members who do not understand the language in which speech was delivered.
The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat. No officer or employee of the Lok Sabha can appear as a witness in any court of law without his permission.
He can instruct the government to produce a document for the use of the committee or place a document on the Table of the House. In this way he can force the government to make a document public, which hitherto it was unwilling to part with either on one pretext or the other.
No arrest or any other type of warrant can be issued by any executive authority on any member of Parliament within the four-walls of the House without his prior permission. Information about arrest, bail or release of a member of the House, must immediately be sent to him.
Similarly he allows a member of the House to appear as witness before the other House, court of law or any other body which wishes to appear as witness. He, however, does not force any member for his appearance as witness.
He accepts all the resignations which are sent to him by the members of the House. He has, however, been empowered not to accept a resignation, which he feels has been signed by a member under duress.
The Speaker authenticates all the Bills passed by the House. It is the responsibility of the chair to protect the House from unnecessary executive interference. Pt Nehru once said, “We would like the distinguished occupant of this chair, now and always to guard the freedom and liberties of this Houses from every possible danger, even from the danger of executive intrusion.”
Thus the Speaker of the Lok Sabha has immense responsibilities and powers as well. But every person cannot be a good Speaker. These days his task has become increasingly difficult. A good Speaker should be level headed and firm, with sufficient patience to listen to all tedious repetitions.
He must be courteous and have for-clearance, fortitude, accurate knowledge about working of the constitution, standing orders and Rules of Procedure for the Conduct of Business in the House. He should have capacity to amicably settle complicated issues.
But Mr. Speaker can discharge his duties and responsibilities only when he enjoys the confidence of the House, including the opposition parties. This raises many serious problems.
Usually such a person is nominated as Speaker, by the ruling party, and subsequently elected by the House who has all along been an active politician. How to ensure that person on being elevated to the Chair as Presiding Officer, will all of a sudden become a none partisan, fully appreciating the view point of the opposition.
Then another problem is that in India so far no tradition has been developed that Speaker will always be returned to the House uncontested. At the time of election political parties contest even from the constituency from which the Speaker of the dissolved Lok Sabha is contesting. The Speaker thus contests on a party ticket and becomes a party candidate.
Then another problem is that in India no healthy tradition has been developed that the Speaker shall not be offered or the occupant shall not accept any other office of profit from the government after retirement, so that he does not look to the government for any favours. Sardar Hukam Singh and N.A. Ayyanger become State Governors, though they had remained Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Similarly Balram Jakhar who also was Speaker of Lok Sabha joined as cabinet Minister in P. V. Narsimha Rao Government. In order to ensure impartiality of the chair, so far in India no tradition has been developed that once a Speaker, always a speaker.
But in spite of all this from the very beginning the occupants of this chair have always assured to all sections of the House that they will act impartially and protect rights and privileges of the House as a whole.
Sir Eraskine May once said, “Confidence in the impartiality of Speaker is an indispensable condition of the successful working of the procedure and many conventions exist which have as their object not only to ensure the impartiality of the Speaker, but also to ensure that his impartiality is generally recognised.”
In 1925, when V. J. Patel became the Speaker of the House he said that from this moment he ceased to be a party man and that he belonged to no party and to all parties. He said, “In the discharge of my duties, I shall assure you, observe strict impartiality in dealing with all sections of the House, irrespective of party consideration.”
When President Patel resigned his successor Maulvi Muhammed Yakub also said, “It will be my sacred duty to see that the rights of every individual member of every party and every section of the House are safeguarded during the brief period that I shall occupy the chair.”
His successor in office President Rahimtoola assured the House, “I would keep before me the motto of judicial impartiality.” President R.K. Shanmukham Chetty said that, “In accordance with this well established practice I cease to belong to any political party from this day.”
About his impartiality, President Abdur Rahim said, “I need hardly assure you that in the discharge of my duties I shall be strictly impartial to all sections of the House and all views that the Hon’ble members of this House may hold.” In 1946, Speaker Mavlanker said, “Though a Congress man … it would be my duty to–be impartial and remain above all considerations of party or of political career.”
Speaker Ayyanger did not resign his seat in the party but he said, “It may be that I am not resigning my membership from the party but I shall so conduct myself in this office as to infuse a confidence in the minds of all parties and be absolutely impartial and try to raise the standard conventions and traditions of this House.”
In 1967, Speaker Ayyanger said, “My office requires of me to be impartial and judicious in the conduct of my work. As a necessary corollary to said resolve, I resign my membership of the party (Congress) to which I had the honour to belong for 34 years.”
Then comes Speaker Dhillon who said on his election as Speaker of Lok Sabha, “that hence forth I do not belong to any party at all and that I conduct myself in a way that I am not only, but shall appear to be just impartial, non- controversial and fair presiding officer in thought and action.”
In 1976, B.R. Bhagat became Speaker of the House. He also said, “Speaker is but a servant of the House and as such he equally belongs to all Sections of the House. He is expected, to discharge his responsibility impartially and judiciously.”
Similar assurances about conducting the business of the House impartially and to the satisfaction of all sections of the House were given by other speakers, who followed Mr. Speaker Bhagat.
Mr. Speaker in India has thus many functioning to perform. He is already over loaded with work and clay-by-day its work is increasing. This is happening because of various causes. The presiding officers in both the Houses of Parliament are always faced with the difficult task of controlling the proceedings of the House and ensuring that full decorum is maintained in the House so that work of the House is finished as per schedule and in a dignified way.
His task is becoming still more difficult because party discipline is weakening day-by-day. In fact not only Mr. Speaker but Parliament of India as a whole is very heavily overworked. There is dire need to reduce its work load.