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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Indian Polity #5

THE PARLIAMENT OF INDIA

Overview

  • The Parliament consists of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the office of the President
  • Any Bill can become an Act only after being passed by both Houses of Parliament
  • The Parliament House was designed by British architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker in 1912-1913. It was opened in 1927 to house the Council of States, the Central Legislative Assembly and the Chamber of Princes
  • The minimum age for membership to the Rajya Sabha is 30 years, while for the Lok Sabha it is 25 years
  • It shares legislative powers with the Lok Sabha, except in the case of supply Bills (like Money Bills) where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers
  • In the case of conflicting legislation, a joint sitting of the two Houses is held. However, since the Lok Sabha has more than twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha, it holds de facto veto power in such legislations
  • The Parliament has its own TV broadcasting stations launched in 2004: Doordarshan Rajya Sabha and Doordarshan Lok Sabha (now known as Lok Sabha TV)
  • When the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 Jan 1950, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of India. It remained so until the first elections in 1951
  • The business of Parliament is transacted in either Hindi or English. However, the Presiding Officers of the two Houses may permit any member to address the House in his mother tongue
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

THE RAJYA SABHA (COUNCIL OF STATES)
About the Rajya Sabha

  • The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House of Parliament
  • The Vice-President is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is elected from among members. He officiates in the absence of the Chairman
  • The first sitting of the Rajya Sabha was held in May 1952
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Membership to the Rajya Sabha

  • The maximum permissible strength of the Rajya Sabha is 250. Of these 238 members are elected indirectly from the states and Union Territories, and 12 are nominated by the President for their expertise in art, literature, science and social services
  • Currently, the strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245. Of these 233 are members elected from states and UTs and 12 are nominated members
  • Members from state assemblies are elected using the Single Transferable Vote system
  • The provision for nominated members is found in Article 80 of the Constitution
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Tenure of the Rajya Sabha

  • The Rajya Sabha is a continuous body and is not subject to dissolution
  • Members enjoy a tenure of six years
  • One-third of the members retire every two years
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Functions of the Rajya Sabha

  • Acts as a non-partisan forum for full and free debates
  • Can originate any Bill, including constitutional amendment Bills, except Money Bills
  • Re-evaluates Bills originating in the Lok Sabha in a non-political manner
  • Relieves the work of the Lok Sabha in considering Private Bills (Bills that apply to specific individuals or organizations)
  • Along with the Lok Sabha, votes on the election of President and Vice-President
  • Along with the Lok Sabha, votes on the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts
  • Along with the Lok Sabha, votes for the continued proclamation of Emergency beyond a period of two months
  • Acts as the sole de facto and de jure Parliament if the Lok Sabha is dissolved during an Emergency
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

THE LOK SABHA (HOUSE OF THE PEOPLE)
About the Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha is the lower House of Parliament
  • The current Lok Sabha is the 15th Lok Sabha to be constituted
  • The first hour of every sitting of the Lok Sabha is called Question Hour, during which questions posed by members may be assigned to specific ministries
  • Three sessions of the Lok Sabha are held every year:
    • Budget session: February to May
    • Monsoon session: July to September
    • Winter session: November to December
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Membership to the Lok Sabha

  • The maximum permissible strength of the Lok Sabha is 552. Of these, 530 are to be chosen by direct election, 20 are to be representatives of Union Territories, and 2 to be nominated Anglo-Indians
  • Currently, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 545. Of these, 530 are chosen by direct election, 13 are from Union Territories, and 2 are nominated Anglo-Indians
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Tenure of the Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha has a tenure of five years, unless dissolved earlier
  • The tenure may be extended by a proclamation of Emergency. The Emergency may extend the term of the Lok Sabha in one year increments
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Functions of the Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha controls the functioning of the Executive, by making the Council of Ministers answerable to it
  • The sanctioning of expenditure is the exclusive priviledge of the Lok Sabha
  • Can originate any Bill, including Money Bills
  • Along with the Rajya Sabha, votes on the election of President and Vice-President
  • Along with the Rajya Sabha, votes on the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts
  • Along with the Rajya Sabha, votes for the continued proclamation of Emergency beyond a period of two months
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

SPEAKER OF THE LOK SABHA
Terms of service

  • As soon as a new Lok Sabha is constituted, the President appoints a Speaker Pro-Term, who is generally the senior-most member of the House. This office is dissolved when the Speaker is elected
  • The Speaker is elected on the first meeting of the Lok Sabha after a General Election
  • He is elected for a term of 5 years
  • The Speaker does not vacate office on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. Instead, he continues in office until the next House meets
  • The Speaker vacates his office and ceases to be a member of the House when he resigns or is removed
  • He may be removed by a majority resolution in the Lok Sabha
  • The Constitution also provides for a Deputy Speaker, to be elected from among the Lok Sabha. He officiates in the absence of the Speaker
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Functions of the Speaker

  • The Speaker is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha. He is expected to be impartial
  • He maintains decorum and conducts the business of the House
  • He decides whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not
  • He permits the moving of various motions and resolutions such as motion of no confidence, motion of adjournment etc
  • He decides the agenda for discussion during the meeting of the House
  • The Speaker can cast a vote only in the case of a tie
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

Important Speakers of the Lok Sabha

  • GV Mavlankar was the first Speaker of the Lok Sabha (1952 – 1956)
  • MA Ayyangar was the first Deputy Speaker (1952 – 1956)
  • Dr. Balram Jhakar was the longest serving Speaker (1980 – 1989)
Keywords: India, ias, upsc, civil service, study material, general studies, Indian polity

FUNCTIONS OF PARLIAMENT
  • The Parliament legislates on subjects in the Union and Concurrent Lists. It can also legislate on subjects in the State List if
    • The Rajya Sabha passes a resolution saying it is in the national interest to do so and/or
    • The legislatures of two or more states recommend to Parliament to so legislate
  • The power to legislate on residuary subjects also vests with the Parliament
  • The Parliament (via the Lok Sabha) exercises control over Union finances
  • The Parliament (via the Lok Sabha) exercises control over the functioning of the Executive
  • The Parliament is responsible for legislating on amendments to the Constitution
  • The Parliament elects the Vice-President and can initiate impeachment proceedings against the President
  • It recommends the creation of All India Services, the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts
  • Parliamentary approval is essential for the continuance of a proclamation of Emergency made by the President
LEGISLATIVE PROCEDURES IN PARLIAMENT
  1. Ordinary Bills: Ordinary Bills can originate in either House of Parliament and have to pass through the following stages before being sent for assent by the President
    1. First Reading: a brief description of the Bill is read, and its aims and objectives announced. Opponents can also make a brief speech. After a vote, the Bill is published in the Gazette
    2. Second Reading: the general principles of the Bill are discussed, and the Bill is sent to the appropriate committee for its reference. No amendments are possible at this stage
    3. Committee Stage: the appropriate committee reviews the Bill and suggests amendments
    4. Report Stage: the committee submits its report to the House, where it is thoroughly discussed. Amendments may be proposed. Voting is held on a clause-by-clause basis
    5. Third Reading: general discussion of the Bill followed by formal voting for its acceptance or rejection. No amendments possible at this stage. After the Bill has been accepted, it is sent to the other House for a repeat procedure, and thereupon to the President for assent.
  2. Money Bills: Money Bills can originate only in the Lok Sabha on the recommendation of the President.
    Since they deal with public finances, their passage is crucial to the functioning of government
    1. After a Money Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, it is sent to the Rajya Sabha for deliberations
    2. The Rajya Sabha is given 14 days to make recommendations
    3. If the Rajya Sabha fails to make recommendations within this period, the Bill is considered to have passed both Houses and is sent to the President for assent
    4. If the Rajya Sabha does make its recommendations, the Lok Sabha may or may not decide to accept those recommendations
    5. Regardless, the Bill is considered to have passed both Houses and is sent to the President
TYPES OF MONEY BILLS
  1. Annual Financial Statement:
    At the beginning of every financial year, the President causes to be laid before both Houses, a statement of estimated receipt and expenditure for the ensuing year. Expenditure is of two types:
    1. Expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India, which is not subject to vote of Parliament, although it can be discussed by both Houses
    2. Expenditure charged outside the Consolidated Fund, which are submitted to the Lok Sabha in the form of grants, which may or may not approve them
  2. Appropriation Bill:
    after the grants are approved by the Lok Sabha, an Appropriation Bill is introduced.
    1. Appropriations out of the Consolidated Fund of India can be made only after passage of the Appropriation Bill.

    2. This Bill is never opposed in the Lok Sabha.
    3. Since the grants have already been approved, the discussion is limited to administrative policy etc
    4. No amendments are possible at this stage
IMPORTANT PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS
  • Point of Order
    • A member may raise a Point of Order if proceedings do not follow normal rules
    • The Presiding Officer decides whether the Order may be allowed or not
  • Vote on Account
    • This procedure covers government expenditure between the presentation and the passage of the Budget
    • The Vote on Account allows the Lok Sabha to make a grant in advance for a part of the financial year
    • It is usually passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion
    • It is passed after the general discussion on the Budget is over and before the demand for grants in taken up
  • Guillotine
    • Certain demands for grants of various Ministries are taken up by the Lok Sabha without discussion. This is called guillotine
    • Usually done due to lack of time
    • To avoid this, Parliament in 1993 established 17 Parliamentary Committees to study these demand for grants
    • The Committees scrutinize the demand for grants and report to the House
    • The reports are not binding on the House
  • Quorum
    • It is the minimum number of members required to transact the business of the House
    • Article 100 of the Constitution specifies that the Quorum of either House shall be 10% of the strength of the House
  • Question Hour
    • The first hour of every sitting of Parliament is called Question Hour
    • Questions usually need a 10 day notice before being answered by the concerned Minister
    • Questions addressed to the Ministers are of three types:
      • Starred questions: to be answered orally on the floor of the House
      • Unstarred questions: are answered in writing. No supplementary questions may be asked
      • Short notice questions: questions on urgent public importance, do not need 10 day notice
  • Zero Hour
    • Does not formally exist in the Parliamentary procedure
    • The hour after Question Hour is popularly known as Zero Hour
    • Members raise matters which they feel is urgent
    • However, since the questions are raised without prior notice, it results in loss of time
TYPES OF MOTIONS
  1. Adjournment Motion:
    1. Motion to adjourn the proceedings of the House, so as to take up a matter of urgent public importance
    2. Can be moved by any member
    3. Requires support from at least 50 members
    4. Notice for the motion must be given before the commencement of the sitting for the day
  2. Calling Attention Motion
    1. A member may call the attention of a Minister to an urgent matter and the Minister may make a statement regarding it
  3. Priviledge Motion
    1. Motion moved by a member if he feels a Minister has committed a breach of priviledge
    2. Also moved against members for withholding or distorting facts
  4. Censure Motion
    1. A motion that censures the government for a specific charge
    2. Can be moved against a Minister or against the Council of Ministers
    3. Censure Motion is different from No Confidence Motion in that the former requires to cite a specific charge against the government whereas the latter does not
    4. If the Motion is passed in the Lok Sabha, the government is expected to resign
  5. No Confidence Motion
    1. A No Confidence Motion indicates lack of confidence of the Lok Sabha in the Council of Ministers
    2. Can be introduced in the Lok Sabha only
    3. If the Motion is passed, the government must resign
  6. Cut Motion
    1. A device through which members draw the attention of Government to a specific grievance
    2. It is used to seek reduction in the amount of a demand for grants presented by Government
    3. Approved by the Speaker at his discretion
    4. There are three types of Cut Motions
      1. Policy Cut: implies the mover disapproves of the policy underlying the demand. Asks for a reduction of Re. 1
      2. Economy Cut: seeks a specific amount of reduction
      3. Token Cut: used to ventilate a particular grievance against the government. The reduction amount is Rs 100
TERMINATION OF A SESSION OF PARLIAMENT
The sessions of Parliament are convened at the discretion of the President. However, there should not be a gap of more than 6 months between sessions.

  1. Prorogation
    1. Done by President on the advice of the Council of Ministers
    2. Brings the session of the House to an end
    3. Unlike England, Pending Bills and other business do not lapse, they are taken up when the House meets in the next session
  2. Adjournment
    1. Short recess within a session of Parliament
    2. Called by the Presiding Officer of the House
    3. Duration may be from a few minutes to a few days
  3. Adjournment Sine Die
    1. House is adjourned by the Presiding Officer without fixing a date for the next meeting
  4. Dissolution
    1. Dissolution ends the life of a House and a new House needs to be reconstituted
    2. Only the Lok Sabha can be dissolved, the Rajya Sabha is permanent
    3. Dissolution enacted by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister
    4. Any Bill pending in the Lok Sabha lapses
    5. Any Bill pending passed by the Lok Sabha and pending the Rajya Sabha also lapses, unless the President calls a Joint Sitting of the two Houses. However, Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha but not passed by the Lok Sabha do not lapse

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