INTRODUCTION

  • India has a parliamentary system of government with a bicameral legislature at the Centre.
  • Article 79 declares: “There shall be a Parliament for the union which shall consist of the President and two Houses known as the Council of States and the House of the People”.
  • Council of States is also referred to as “Rajya Sabha” or the Upper House” or “House of Elders”. And, the House of People is referred to as Lok Sabha” or the “Lower House”. While Rajya Sabha represents the States, Lok Sabha represents the People
  • The functions of the Parliament are provided for in the Indian Constitution in Chapter II, Part V.

CONSTITUTIONAL ARTICLES

  • Article 79: Constitution of Parliament
  • Article 80:Composition of the Council of States
  • Article 81: Composition of the House of the People
  • Article 82: Readjustment after each census
  • Article 83: Duration of Houses of Parliament
  • Article 84: Qualification for membership of Parliament
  • Article 85:Sessions of Parliament, prorogation and dissolution
  • Article 86: Right of President to address and send messages to Houses
  • Article 87: Special address by the President
  • Article 88: Rights of Ministers and Attorney-General as respects Houses
  • Article 89: The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Council of States
  • Article 90: Vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the office of Deputy Chairman
  • Article 91: Power of the Deputy Chairman or other person to perform the duties of the office of, or to act as, Chairman
  • Article 92: The Chairman or the Deputy Chairman not to preside while a resolution for his removal from office is under consideration
  • Article 93: The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of the People
  • Article 94: Vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker
  • Article 95: Power of the Deputy Speaker or other person to perform the duties of the office of, or to act as, Speaker
  • Article 96: The Speaker or the Deputy Speaker not to preside while a resolution for his removal from office is under consideration
  • Article 97: Salaries and allowances of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman and the Speaker and Deputy Speaker
  • Article 98: Secretariat of Parliament
  • Article 99: Oath or affirmation by members
  • Article 100: Voting in Houses, power of Houses to act notwithstanding vacancies and quorum
  • Article 101: Vacation of seats
  • Article 102: Disqualifications for membership
  • Article 103: Decision on questions as to disqualifications of members
  • Article 104: Penalty for sitting and voting before making oath or affirmation under article 99 or when not qualified or when disqualified
  • Article 105: Powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof
  • Article 106: Salaries and allowances of members
  • Article 107: Provisions as to introduction and passing of Bills
  • Article 108: Joint sitting of both Houses in certain cases
  • Article 109: Special procedure in respect of Money Bills
  • Article 110: Definition of “Money Bills”
  • Article 111: Assent to Bills
  • Article 112: Annual financial statement
  • Article 113: Procedure in Parliament with respect to estimates
  • Article 114: Appropriation Bills
  • Article 115: Supplementary, additional or excess grants
  • Article 116: Votes on account, votes of credit and exceptional grants
  • Article 117: Special provisions as to financial Bills
  • Article 118: Rules of procedure
  • Article 119: Regulation by law of procedure in Parliament in relation to financial business
  • Article 120: Language to be used in Parliament
  • Article 121: Restriction on discussion in Parliament
  • Article 122: Courts not to inquire into proceedings of Parliament
  • Article 123: Power of President to promulgate Ordinances during recess of Parliament

STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONING OF PARLIAMENT

  • The Parliament consists of the President, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It is the legislative body of the country and makes legislations regarding matters in Union and Concurrent List. It is also vested with the exclusive authority to amend the constitution of India.

A) Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by adult universal suffrage and a first-past-the-post system to represent their respective constituencies, and they hold their seats for five years or until the body is dissolved by the President on the advice of the council of ministers. The house meets in the Lok Sabha Chambers of the Sansad Bhavan, New Delhi.

Composition of Lok Sabha (Article 81)

  • The maximum strength of the House allotted by the Constitution of India is 550
  • Lok Sabha has 545 members.
  • 543 are directly elected by the people through elections.
  • The president may nominate 2 members from the Anglo-Indian community in case he feels they are inadequately represented in the Lok Sabha.
  • In proportion to their population, a certain number of seats may be reserved for SC/ST sections of the population.

B) Rajya Sabha

Federal Chamber: Rajya Sabha consists of elected representatives from state legislatures. It is conceived as a chamber to check that legislations passed by the Lok Sabha are in accordance with federal nature of administration in the country and in consonance with interest of various states

  1. Check hasty or ill-conceived laws: As the house of elders and of domain experts nominated persons, Rajya Sabha also checks hasty or ill-conceived laws passed by Lok Sabha
  2. Representation to Domain Experts: The President can nominate 12 persons who are eminent personalities in various domains to be members of Rajya Sabha. Hence the house facilitates expertise without the necessity of a direct election.

Composition of Rajya Sabha (Article 80)

  • Rajya Sabha shall not more than 238 Representatives of States and Union Territories.
  • Representatives of States in the Rajya Sabha shall be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States in accordance with the System of Proportional Representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote
  • Members of the council of states are indirectly elected by members of state legislative assemblies. The seats reserved for states are in proportion to their population.
  • Representation of UTs: Members indirectly elected by Electoral College constituted.
  • Nominated Members: The President can nominate 12 persons who are eminent personalities in various domains to be members of Rajya Sabha. Hence the house facilitates expertise without the necessity of a direct election.

ROLE OF PRESIDENT

  1. Check on passed legislation
  2. President is the final authority of check before a bill becomes an act.
  3. He may withhold his assent or sent back a bill which he feels is not in the best interest of the country on behalf of the executive
  4. Dissolving the Lok Sabha: President may dissolve the Lok Sabha in lieu of advice tendered by Prime Minister or when no-confidence motion is passed in Lok Sabha.
  5. He enforces the accountability of the government to the House of People

QUALIFICATION AND DISQUALIFICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP OF PARLIAMENT:

A) Qualifications:

  • Should be a Citizen of India;
  • Should subscribe to Oath…set out in Schedule Three of the Constitution;
  • Should possess such other qualifications as Parliament may prescribe by law;
  • For a seat in Rajya Sabha, should not be less than thirty years of age.
  • For a seat in Lok Sabha, should not be less than twenty five years of age.

B) Disqualifications:

A Citizen cannot become a Member of either House,

  • If he holds any office of profit under Government of India or State
  • if he is of unsound mind and a court of competent jurisdiction has so declared;
  • if he is an undischarged insolvent;
  • If has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State or “acknowledges allegiance or adherence to a foreign State”…
  • If he is disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.

POWERS OF THE PARLIAMENT

The Indian Parliament enjoys a wide gambit of powers so that it can adequately control the executive action and ensure that the will of the people is reflected through Parliamentary control.

A) Legislative Powers

  • Delegated Legislation: Parliament makes law in skeleton form and authorizes executive to make detailed laws. It is also referred to as executive legislation or subordinate legislation.

B) Financial Powers

The Parliament is vested with the power to vote on the budget which is the annual financial statement of the government that lays down estimated revenue and expenditure of the government.

Stages in Enactment of Budget

  1. Presentation of Budget: Discussed in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha can discuss it, but not vote on a demand for grants
  2. General Discussion: Takes place in both houses and lasts 3 to 4 days
  3. Scrutiny of Departmental Committees: Examine in detail demands for grants of concerned ministries and prepare report cards
  4. Voting on demand for grants: Exclusive privilege of Lok Sabha as money appropriated is to implement schemes of incumbent government that is the mandate of people vested with directly elected representatives of Lok Sabha. Cut motions (Policy, Token, Economy) are moved during this stage. Hence the parliaments control over executive’s actions are visible in this stage where its check actions ensure there is greater responsibility and accountability on the government to expedite spending in judicious manner.
  5. Passing of Appropriation Bill: All money required to meet grants voted by Lok Sabha and expenditure charged on CFI
  6. Passing of Finance Bill: To give effect to financial proposals of government for coming year. It legalises income side and completes the process of enactment of the budget

Scrutiny of Spending

The government remains answerable to parliamentary committees with regard to its financial performance.

  • These committees perform audits and examine the nature of spending to curb wasteful spending and to ensure that money appropriated is being productively used. They bring out illegal, improper, unauthorized, irregular usage and wastage in public expenditure.
  • Eg: Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee and Committee on Public Undertakings

Therefore, parliament exercises financial control over executive in 2 instances:

  1. Budgetary Control: During passing of budget, parliament has to vote on demand for grants where it can move cut motions to cut government spending if it feels it is unwarranted or unjustified.
  2. Post-Budgetary Control: After the government has spent, the various committees verify the efficacy or judicious nature of spending

C) Executive Power

The parliament exercises control over executive through questioning through question-hour, zero-hour, short duration discussion and various motions calling attention, adjournment, no-confidence, censure motion etc.

  1. The various parliamentary committees also hold the executive accountable for its actions. These are committee on government assurance, subordinate legislation, committee on petitions etc.
  2. The council of ministers remain collectively responsible to the parliament in general and Lok Sabha in particular. They remain in office only as long as they enjoy confidence of the Lok Sabha.

D) Constitution amending powers

  1. The parliament can amend the constitution under Article 368 by passing a constitution amendment bill with special majority, not less than 2-3rd members present and voting and majority of total membership of house.
  2. In case the amendment affects federal structure of the country, it requires ratification by at least 50% of state legislatures.
  3. The power to amend the constitution is not unlimited and is subject to the basic structure of the constitution. In the Keshav Ananda Bharathi case, the SC observed that Parliament may amend the constitution to a permissible limit where it does not violate or impinge the basic structure of the constitution.
  4. Thus the Indian position on constitutional amendment rests on the balance between parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy.

E) Electoral Powers

  1. The parliament participates in elections of President and Vice-President.
  2. The Lok Sabha elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker while Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
  3. It is also vested with the power to regulate elections to offices of President and Vice-president, to both houses of parliament and state legislatures.

F) Judicial Powers

  1. Impeachment of President: The parliament can remove the President for violation of the constitution by passing a resolution separately in both houses by special majority with which the president stands removed from power
  2. Impeachment of Vice-President: Similar to manner of President but with absolute majority in Rajya Sabha and agreed to in Lok Sabha
  3. Impeachment of Judges: It can recommend the removal of judges of SC or HC, CEC, CAG to the President by passing a resolution with special majority in both houses on the grounds of misbehaviour and incapacity.

THE FUNCTIONING OF PARLIAMENT

A) Passing of Bills

  1. First Reading: No discussion, published in gazette
  2. Second Reading: Parliamentary scrutiny where the house may refer it to a committee or circulate it to general public. Committee conducts detailed examination of the bill plugging loopholes and modifying the bill without altering underlying principles. The House then votes upon the bill clause by clause
  3. Third Reading: Acceptance or Rejection of bill as a whole; no amendments allowed; Pass, pass with amendments, Reject or take no action

Joint Sitting

It provides an innovative mechanism to resolve differences between different chambers by bringing them together on a common platform. It allows amendments only on clauses where conflict has arisen or in cases where scenarios have changed that necessitate the same

The constitution provides for the provision of joint sitting of both houses in case of a deadlock between them caused by the following instances:

  • First house passed the bill, second house rejects it
  • First house passed the bill, second house passes back with amendments that are rejected by the first house
  • First house passes the bill; second house takes no action for 6 months

Cases where joint sitting not allowed

  1. Money Bills: Constitution does not provide for joint sitting in the case of money bills as it needs to be passed by Lok Sabha only. Rajya Sabha can delay it for a maximum period of 14 days and its recommendations are not required to be accepted by Lok Sabha. Hence provision for joint sitting is not available with regard to money bills
  2. Constitutional Amendment Bills: These are need to be passed separately by both houses as they are bills of immense importance and may have implications on federal features. The amendment of the constitution hence needs an extra check that is provided independently by the Council of states.

B) Private Member’s Bill

A private member’s Bill is different from a government Bill and is piloted by an MP who is not a minister. An MP who is not a minister is a private member.

  • Individual MPs may introduce private member’s Bill to draw the government’s attention to what they might see as issues requiring legislative intervention.
  • While both private members and ministers take part in the lawmaking process, Bills introduced by private members are referred to as private member’s Bills and those introduced by ministers are called government Bills.
  • The admissibility of a Private Bill is decided by the Chairman in the case of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker in the case of the Lok Sabha.
  • Before the Bill can be listed for introduction, the Member must give at least a month’s notice, for the House Secretariat to examine it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation.
  • While a government Bill can be introduced and discussed on any day, a private member’s bill can only be introduced and discussed on Fridays.
  • No private member’s Bill has been passed by Parliament since 1970.
  • To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956.

ADJOURNMENT, PROROGATION AND DISSOLUTION

  • Adjournment: An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks. In this case, the time of reassembly is specified. An adjournment only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House. The power of adjournment lies with the presiding officer of the House.
  • Adjournment Sine Die: Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine die. The power of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.
  • Prorogation: Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House. Usually, within a few days after the House is adjourned sine die by the presiding officer, the President issues a notification for the prorogation of the session. However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.
  • Dissolution: A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held. Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution. When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions and so on pending before it or its committees lapse.

FLOOR TEST

A floor test is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature.

  • It is a constitutional mechanism under which a Prime Minister/Chief Minister can be asked to prove majority on the floor of the Lok Sabha/Legislative Assembly.
  • When a single party secures the majority of the seats in the house, the President/Governor appoints the leader of the party as the Prime Minister/Chief Minister.
  • In case the majority is questioned, the leader of the party which claims majority has to move a vote of confidence and prove majority among those present and voting.
  • The Prime minister/Chief Minister has to resign if they fail to prove their majority in the house. This happens both in the parliament and the state legislative assemblies.
  • In situations when there are differences within a coalition government, the Prime Minister/Chief Minister has to prove majority in the house.
  • When the majority is not clear, the governor might call for a special session to see who has the majority.
  • The majority is counted based on those present and voting. This can also be done through a voice vote where the member can respond orally or through division voting. Some legislators may be absent or choose not to vote.
  • The person who has the majority will form the government.
  • In case of tie, the speaker can also cast his vote.
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