Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What are the powers of the Speaker, why is the post crucial?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Constitutional mandate of the Speaker

Mains level: Powers of the Speaker

Why in the News?

The pivotal role of the Speaker in parliamentary democracy is underscored as both the TDP and JD(U), crucial allies within the NDA, compete for the position, highlighting its significance.

Constitutional Mandate:

  • Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected as per Article 93 of the Constitution, with the Speaker chosen by a simple majority.
  • The speaker’s term ends with the House dissolution and no-confidence motion can be moved against the Speaker.
  • No specific qualifications for the Speaker, who is distinct from other members.

Powers of the Speaker

  • Conducting the House: The Speaker decides House conduct and government business, ensuring adherence to rules, crucial for opposition participation. There are Rules and Procedure for the functioning of the House, but the Speaker has vast powers in ensuring these Rules are followed, and in choosing procedures.
  • Questions & Records: The Speaker holds authority over determining the validity of queries raised by members and overseeing the publication of House proceedings. The Speaker possesses the power to remove, wholly or partially, statements deemed unparliamentary.
  • Voice Votes, Division: The speaker can push bills through by voice vote or division, crucial for the legislative process.
    • As per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, if the Speaker thinks that is “unnecessarily claimed”, simply ask the members who are for ‘Aye’ and those for ‘No’ respectively to rise in their places and decide.
  • No-Confidence Motion: A pivotal moment where the Speaker’s neutrality significantly affects the Opposition is during the presentation of a motion of no-confidence against the government.
    • In 2018, when notices for a no-confidence motion were submitted by the YSRCP and TDP, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan postponed the House multiple times before acknowledging the motion and conducting the vote.
  • Casting Vote: As per Article 100 of the Constitution, pertaining to voting in the Houses, the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, or any individual acting in such a capacity, “shall refrain from voting initially but must cast a deciding vote in the event of a tie.”
  • His Removal:
    • Motion: A member of the Lok Sabha gives a written notice for the removal of the Speaker, citing specific grounds such as misconduct or inability to perform duties.
    • Support: The motion needs support from at least 50 members to be admitted for discussion in the House.
    • Resolution: Once admitted, the House discusses the motion. If the majority of members present and voting support the motion, a resolution for the Speaker’s removal is passed.
Note: During the process of removal of the Lok Sabha Speaker in India, the Speaker typically remains present and presides over the proceedings until the resolution for their removal is passed. The Speaker maintains their role in overseeing the House’s functioning unless and until the majority of members vote in favor of the motion to remove them. Once the resolution is passed and approved by the President, the Speaker ceases to hold office and their duties are formally relinquished.

Disqualification of Members

  • Power of the Speaker: The Speaker of the House holds the authority to disqualify legislators who defect from their party, as per the provisions of the Tenth Schedule.
  • Introduction of the Anti-Defection Law: The Tenth Schedule, also known as the anti-defection law, was incorporated into the Constitution in 1985 through the Fifty-Second (Amendment) Act.
  • Judicial Review: The Supreme Court, in the landmark case of Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu in 1992, upheld the power vested in the Speaker to decide on defection cases. It ruled that only the final order of the Speaker is subject to judicial review.
  • Impact on Government Stability: Defections can change the numerical strength of political parties in the House, potentially destabilizing governments if members defect in significant numbers. Timely action by the Speaker in disqualifying defective members is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the Tenth Schedule and ensuring that governments retain their majority.
  • Supreme Court Directives: The Supreme Court has issued directives emphasizing the need for Speakers to expedite disqualification proceedings. For instance, in 2020, it ruled that Speakers must decide on disqualification pleas within three months, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Impact on Government Formation: Delays in deciding disqualification petitions can have significant political ramifications, as seen in cases where governments have collapsed due to prolonged delays in addressing defection issues.
  • Case Example: In 2023, the Supreme Court directed the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker to expedite disqualification proceedings against members of factions within the Shiv Sena party. Prolonged delays in these proceedings contributed to the collapse of the government led by Uddhav Thackeray.

Conclusion: The Speaker holds significant powers in conducting the House, ensuring adherence to rules, deciding on crucial matters like no-confidence motions, and maintaining political stability through the judicious application of these powers.

Mains PYQ: 

Q ‘Once a Speaker, Always a Speaker’! Do you think this practice should be adopted to impart objectivity to the office of the Speaker of Lok Sabha? What could be its implications for the robust functioning of parliamentary business in India? (UPSC IAS/2020)

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