From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Sessions of the Parliament
Mains level : Executive responsibility to the Legislature
The centre has said that there will be no winter session of Parliament this time due to the COVID despite the ‘success’ in curbing the pandemic. This year, the Parliament has met for only 33 days!
Q. The undue delays and inactions by the constitutional functionaries threaten to widen the constitutional faultlines among the Executives. Critically comment.
Sessions of Parliament
- The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government. But it is the President who summons Parliament.
- The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which currently comprises nine ministers, including those for Defence, Home, Finance, and Law.
- The decision of the Committee is formalized by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
- A general scheme of sittings was recommended in 1955 by the General Purpose Committee of Lok Sabha.
- It was accepted by the government of PM Jawaharlal Nehru but was not implemented.
No fixed calendar
- India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar.
- By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
- The longest, the Budget Session, starts towards the end of January and concludes by the end of April or first week of May.
- The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
- The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
- The parliamentary year ends with a three-week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.
What the Constitution says
- The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution. Like many other articles, it is based on a provision of The Government of India Act, 1935.
- This provision specified that the central legislature had to be summoned to meet at least once a year and that not more than 12 months could elapse between two sessions.
- Dr B R Ambedkar stated that the purpose of this provision was to summon the legislature only to collect revenue and that the once-a-year meeting was designed to avoid scrutiny of the government by the legislature.
- His drafting of the provision reduced the gap between sessions to six months and specified that Parliament should meet at least twice a year.
Convening a Session: The debate
- During the debate, members of the Constituent Assembly highlighted three issues: (i) the number of sessions in a year, (ii) the number of days of sitting and, (iii) who should have the power to convene Parliament.
- Prof K T Shah from Bihar was of the opinion that Parliament should sit throughout the year, with breaks in between.
- Others wanted Parliament to sit for longer durations and gave examples of the British and American legislatures which during that time were meeting for more than a hundred days in a year.
- Prof Shah also wanted the presiding officers of the two Houses to be empowered to convene Parliament in certain circumstances. These suggestions were not accepted by Dr Ambedkar.
Moved, delayed, stretched
- Over the years, governments have shuffled around the dates of sessions to accommodate political and legislative exigencies.
- Sessions have also been cut short or delayed to allow the government to issue Ordinances.
Fewer House sittings
- Over the years, there has been a decline in the sittings days of Parliament.
- During the first two decades of Parliament, Lok Sabha met for an average of a little more than 120 days a year.
- This has come down to approximately 70 days in the last decade.
Why sittings are reducing day by day?
- One institutional reason given for this is the reduction in the workload of Parliament by its Standing Committees, which, since the 1990s, have anchored debates outside the House.
- However, several Committees have recommended that Parliament should meet for at least 120 days in a year.