From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 98
Mains level : Paper 2- Need for All India Legislative Service
The appointment of Dr. P.P.K. Ramacharyulu as the Secretary-General of the Upper House by M. Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, on September 1, 2021, was news that drew much attention. Ramacharyulu was the first-ever Rajya Sabha secretariat staff who rose to become the Secretary-General of the Upper House.
Responsibilities and role of Secretaries-General of both the Houses
- Secretaries-General of both the Houses are mandated with many parliamentary and administrative responsibilities.
- Privileges: The Secretary-General also enjoys certain privileges such as freedom from arrest, immunity from criminal proceedings, and any obstruction and breach of their rights would amount to contempt of the House.
Principle of secretariate independent of executive government
- Article 98 of the Constitution provides the scope of separate secretariats for the two Houses of Parliament.
- The principle, hence, laid in the Article is that the secretariats should be independent of the executive government.
Issues with appointing civil servant
- A separate secretariat marks a feature of a functioning parliamentary democracy.
- Against the principle of independence: Serving civil servants or those who are retired come with long-held baggage and the clout of their past career.
- When civil servants are hired to the post of Secretary-General, this not only dishonours the purpose of ensuring the independence of the Secretariat but also leads to a conflict of interests.
- Against the principle of separation of power: It breaches the principle of separation of power.
- The officials mandated with exercising one area of power may not expect to exercise the others.
- Lack of expertise: One of the prerequisites that demand the post of the Secretary-General is unfailing knowledge and vast experience of parliamentary procedures, practices and precedents.
- Most of the civil servants lack precisely this aspect of expertise.
Way forward: All-India service
- There are thousands of legislative bodies in India, ranging from the panchayat, block panchayat, zila parishad, municipal corporations to State legislatures and Union Parliament at the national level.
- Despite these mammoth law-making bodies, they lack their own common public recruiting and training agency at the national level.
- Ensuring competent and robust legislative institutions demands having qualified and well-trained staff in place.
- The growth of modern government and expansion of governmental activities require a matching development and laborious legislative exercise.
- Creating a common all-India service cadre — an Indian Legislative Service — is a must.
- The Rajya Sabha can, under Article 312, pass a resolution to this effect.
- In the United Kingdom, the Clerk of the House of Commons has always been appointed from the legislative staff pool created to serve Parliament.
- It is high time that India adapts and adopts such democratic institutional practices.
A common service can build a combined and experienced legislative staff cadre, enabling them to serve from across local bodies to Union Parliament.