Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Role of Speaker

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Power of the Speaker

Mains level : Paper 2- Need to make Speakers independent and impartial

Context

The decline in the functioning of India’s Parliament — and state assemblies as well — is caused by one primary reason: The lack of independence and impartiality of the Speaker.

Important role of the Speaker

  • Our Constitution, after extensive debate, adopted the Westminster model of governance.
  • In the Lok Sabha, as in the United Kingdom, the Speaker is the supreme authority; he has vast powers and it is his primary duty to ensure the orderly conduct of the business of the House.
  • Constitutional law points out the two essential qualities of a Speaker: Independence and impartiality.
  • As the principal spokesperson of the Lok Sabha, the Speaker represents its collective voice.
  • Indeed, the supremacy of Parliament is emphasised by Article 75(3) of the Constitution: “The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People”.
  •  Pandit Nehru referred to the Speaker as “the symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty” and emphasised that Speakers should be men of “outstanding ability and impartiality”.

How role of Speaker matters in functioning Legislature

  • Power to allow debate or discussion: It is the Speaker’s duty to decide what issues will be taken up for discussion.
  • He has the sole discretion to permit an adjournment motion to be tabled or to admit a calling attention notice, if the issue is of urgent public importance.
  • The present practice of the Speaker continuing to be an active member of the ruling party has the inevitable result of his refusing to allow any debate or discussion that may be essential in national interest but may embarrass the ruling party.
  • This inevitably leads to constant disruption of Parliament by the Opposition.
  • The stalling of parliamentary proceedings has led to the passing of important bills in several sessions without any discussion.
  • Violation of separation of power between legislature and executive: The most dangerous consequence is the vastly increased powers that the executive — the bureaucracy — begins to command by default.
  • In 1951, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court (In Re Delhi Laws Act Case) held that essential legislative functions cannot be delegated to the bureaucracy; law-making must remain the domain of the legislature.
  • This constitutional mandate is now increasingly and consistently being violated by issuing rules and notifications that have far-reaching consequences.
  • The new rules on information technology and electronic commerce are clear instances of changes that should have come about by a parliamentary law.
  • And worse still is the power given to the executive to issue retrospective notifications — a step unknown to any civilised democracy.
  • Partisan conduct in anti-defection law issues: Several judgments on the anti-defection law have been rendered by the Supreme Court.
  • A common factor that shows up in these rulings is the blatant, partisan conduct of speakers in state assemblies.

Way forward

  • Speaker should resign from Party: It should be made mandatory that the Speaker ought to resign from his party and his sole allegiance must be to the Constitution and to maintaining the dignity of the House.
  • The separation of powers is part of the basic structure of our Constitution.
  • It is imperative that the Speaker of every legislature resigns from his party to honour his constitutional obligation of independence and impartiality. 
  • This must be accepted as the primary responsibility of every ruling party, both at the Centre and in each state, and made into a constitutional convention.

Conlcusion

The option is a binary: Either allow Parliament and state legislatures to descend into terminal decline or make the Speaker truly independent and let every legislature perform its constitutional function.

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