From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Rules for the Conduct of Business
Mains level : Conduct of Business in Parliament
The suspension of two members by Lok Sabha Speaker after unruly scenes in the House has brought back focus on the conduct of MPs, and related issues.
How are MP’s suspended?
Rule 378 of the Rules for the Conduct of Business states: “The Speaker shall preserve order and shall have all powers necessary for the purpose of enforcing own decisions.”
Rule 373 says: The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any member is grossly disorderly, may direct such member to withdraw immediately from the House.
And any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.
For recalcitrant members
For obstinately uncooperative attitude of MPs, Rule 374 says:
The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and willfully obstructing the business thereof.
If a member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the member be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.
The business usual
In December 2018, Lok Sabha’s Rules Committee recommended automatic suspension of members who entered the well of the House or wilfully obstructed business by shouting slogans despite being repeatedly warned by the Chair.
However, rules aside, it is often expediency rather than principles, which shapes the stand of a party on the issue.
The ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, and the opposition on its right to protest.
Explained: Why Lok Sabha strength is still 543Explained
Polity | Mains Paper 2: Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Strength of Lok Sabha, Delimitation
Mains level : Strength of Lok Sabha
Last week, former Union Minister has said that the number of Lok Sabha seats should be rationalized on the basis of population.
The composition of the Lower House has remained more or less the same for four decades.
Strength of Lok Sabha
Article 81 of the Constitution defines the composition of the House of the People or Lok Sabha.
It states that the House shall not consist of more than 550 elected members of whom not more than 20 will represent UTs.
Under Article 331, the President can nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she feels the community is inadequately represented in the House.
At present, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 543, of which 530 have been allocated to the states and the rest to the UTs.
In proportion to population
Article 81 also mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states.
This is to ensure that every state is equally represented. However, this logic does not apply to small states whose population is not more than 60 lakh.
So, at least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that its population-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.
As per Clause 3 of Article 81, population, for the purpose of allocation of seats, means “population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published”.
In other words, the last published Census.
But, by an amendment to this Clause in 2003, the population now means population as per the 1971 Census, until the first Census taken after 2026.
543 wasn’t there from beginning
Originally Article 81 provided that the Lok Sabha shall not have more than 500 members. The first House constituted in 1952 had 497.
Since the Constitution provides for population as the basis of determining allocation of seats, the lower House’s composition has also changed with each Census up to 1971.
A temporary freeze was imposed in 1976 on ‘Delimitation’ until 2001.
Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in the population.
However, the composition of the House did not change only with delimitation exercises in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.
There were other circumstances as well. For instance, the first change in the composition of Lok Sabha happened in 1953 after the reorganization of the state of Madras.
When it was changed
With a new state of Andhra Pradesh carved out, 28 of Madras’s 75 seats went to Andhra Pradesh. The total strength of the House (497) did not change.
The first major change took place after the overall reorganization of states in 1956, which divided the country into 14 states and six UTs.
This meant subsequent changes in the boundaries of existing states and hence, a change in the allocation of seats to the states and UTs.
So with reorganization the government also amended the Constitution by which the maximum number of seats allocated to the states remained 500, but an additional 20 seats (also maximum limit) were added to represent the six UTs.
So the second Lok Sabha elected in 1957 had 503 members.
Further down the years, the lower House’s composition also changed when the state of Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966 and when Goa and Daman and Diu were liberated.
When it was frozen, and why
As per Article 81, the composition of the Lok Sabha should represent changes in population. But it has remained more or less the same since the delimitation carried out based on the 1971 Census.
The population-to-seat ratio, as mandated under Article 81, should be the same for all states.
Although unintended, this implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
Postponed till 2026
Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the Census of 2001, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
So, the last delimitation exercise – started in July 2002 and finished on May 31, 2008 was conducted on the basis of the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing LS and Assembly seats and reworked the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs.
With the total seats remaining the same since the 1970s, it is felt that states in north India, whose population has increased faster than the rest of the country, are now underrepresented in the Parliament.
It is frequently argued that had the original provision of Article 81 been implemented today, then states like UP, Bihar and MP would have gained seats and those in the south would have lost some.
The Andhra Pradesh government launched its Village Secretariat programme, under which 1.26 lakh new government employees will begin working.
Village Secretariat Programme
Under the new system, the AP government, one Village Secretariat has been set up for every population of 2,000, with each one comprising close to a dozen village officials from various departments like police, revenue, etc.
The idea behind it is to ensure that its services reach people on the ground, and also to strengthen the existing Panchayat Raj system.
The cost of hiring about 1.26 lakh new employees is going to be roughly about ₹2,200 crore a year for the AP government.
Aside from this, the state has also hired another two lakh Village Volunteers, with each of them being paid ₹5,000 per month.
Their job will to assist people in availing government services (each volunteer to look after 50 households).
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Empowering Local Bodies
25 years after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, very little actual progress has been made in this direction. Local governments remain hamstrung and ineffective; mere agents to do the bidding of higher-level governments.
About 32 lakh peoples’ representatives are elected every five years to the local bodies.
Devolution is not mere delegation. It implies that governance functions are assigned by law to local governments, along with adequate transfer of financial grants, taxes, and staff so that they carry out their responsibilities.
Local governments are to report primarily to their voters, and not so much to higher-level departments.
The Constitution mandates that panchayats and municipalities shall be elected every five years.
States are mandated to devolve functions and responsibilities to them through law.
Given diverse habitation patterns, political and social history, it makes sense to mandate States to assign functions to local governments.
A study for the 14th FC by the Centre for Policy Research shows that all States have formally devolved powers with respect to five core functions of water supply, sanitation, roads and communication, streetlight provision and the management of community assets to the gram panchayats.
Issues remain – Finance
The volume of money set apart for them is inadequate to meet their basic requirements.
Much of the money given is inflexible; even in the case of untied grants mandated by the Union and State Finance Commissions, their use is constrained through the imposition of several conditions.
There is little investment in enabling and strengthening local governments to raise their own taxes and user charges.
Local governments do not have the staff to perform even basic tasks.
As most staff are hired by higher-level departments and placed with local governments on deputation, they do not feel responsible for the latter; they function as part of a vertically integrated departmental system.
In violation of the constitutional mandate of five-yearly elections to local governments, States have often postponed them.
In 2005, when the Gujarat government postponed the Ahmedabad corporation elections, a Supreme Court constitutional bench held that under no circumstances can such postponements be allowed.
Supreme Court rejected other alibis for election postponements, such as delays in determining the seat reservation matrix, or fresh delimitation of local government boundaries.
In Tamil Nadu, panchayat elections have not been held for over two years now, resulting in the State losing finance commission grants from the Union government.
Criminal elements and contractors are attracted to local government elections, tempted by the large sums of money now flowing to them. They win elections through bribing voters and striking deals with different groups
Higher officers posted at the behest of MLAs extract bribes from local governments for plan clearances, approving estimates and payments.
There is no evidence to show that corruption has increased due to decentralisation. Decentralised corruption tends to get exposed faster than national or State-level corruption.
Problems with centralisation
The current Union government has centralised service delivery by using technology, and panchayats are nothing more than front offices for several Union government programs.
The ‘Smart City’ program does not devolve its funds to the municipalities; States have been forced to constitute ‘special purpose vehicles’ to ring-fence these grants.
Gram sabhas and wards committees in urban areas have to be revitalised.
Consultations with the grama sabha could be organised through smaller discussions where everybody can really participate.
Even new systems of Short Message Services or social media groups could be used for facilitating discussions between members of grama sabha.
Local government organisational structures have to be strengthened. Panchayats are burdened with a huge amount of work that other departments thrust on them, without being compensated for the extra administrative costs.
Local governments must be enabled to hold State departments accountable and to provide quality, corruption-free service to them, through service-level agreements.
We cannot have accountable GPs, without local taxation. Local governments are reluctant to collect property taxes and user charges fully. They are happy to implement top-down programs because they know that if they collect taxes, their voters will never forgive them for misusing their funds.
A decentralisation is always a messy form of democracy, but it is far better than the operation of criminal politicians at a higher level. We can keep track of corrupt local government representatives; at a higher level, we will never know the extent of dirty deals that happen.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Read the attached story
Mains level : Efficiency of legislative procedures in India
Vice Prez. called for a debate on a Constitutional provision that provides for automatic lapsing of any Bill passed by LS but remains pending in RS on the dissolution of the LS.
A “rethink” on the provision, he said, will not let Lok Sabha’s time go waste.
Pendency of Bills
Presently Lok Sabha has to take somehow 22 Bills again for consideration and passing. It would take a minimum of two sessions for doing so.
This directly means that earlier efforts of Lok Sabha for passing these 22 Bills have been rendered waste.
Among the 33 Bills that have survived in Rajya Sabha after the Lok Sabha term came to an end are some that have been pending for decades.
Three Bills have been pending for more than 20 years, six Bills for 10-20 years, 14 Bills for 5-10 years and 10 Bills for less than 5 years.
The oldest pending Bill, The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 1987, has been pending for over 32 years.
Why it matters?
It takes considerable time and energy to get a Bill passed in either House of Parliament.
Given the implications for the functioning of Parliament and such lapses hampers productivity of the Houses of Parliament.
What can be done?
In order to streamline the process, VP suggested that if a Bill is not taken up for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha within five years of introduction, such pending Bills should be treated as deemed to have lapsed.
The present dysfunctional, disruptive environment must change, urged VP.
Parliamentarians must use the time available for debates most productively.
When does a Bill lapse in Indian Parliament?
Depending on the status of the pending legislation, and where it originated, there are certain cases in which the Bill lapses on dissolution of Assembly.
Bills originated in Lok Sabha
Any Bill that originated in the Lok Sabha, but could not be passed, lapses.
A Bill originated and passed by the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha also lapses
Bills originated in Rajya Sabha
The Constitution also gives MPs in Rajya Sabha the power to introduce a Bill.
Therefore a Bill that originated in Rajya Sabha and was passed by it, but remains pending in Lok Sabha also lapses.
A Bill originated in the Rajya Sabha and returned to that House by the Lok Sabha with amendments and still pending in the Rajya Sabha on the date of the dissolution of Lok Sabha lapses.
When a Bill does not lapse
Not all Bills, which haven’t yet become law, lapse at the end of the Lok Sabha’s term.
A Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, but not passed by the Lok Sabha, does not lapse.
A Bill passed by both the Houses but pending assent of the President of India, does not lapse.
A Bill passed by both Houses but returned by the President of India for reconsideration of the Parliament does not lapse.
Some pending Bills and all pending assurances that are to be examined by the Committee on Government Assurances also does not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
Exceptions for a Joint Sitting
Apart from the aforementioned exceptions, another situation when a Bill does not automatically lapse with end of the final Parliament session is if the president calls for a joint sitting to vote on a Bill.
Article 108 of the Constitution states that the president may, unless the Bill has elapsed by reason of a dissolution of the LS, summon both Houses to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill.
If at the joint sitting of the two Houses, the Bill, with such amendments, if any, is passed by a majority of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed to have been passed by both Houses.
However there is no provision of joint sittings on a Money Bill or a Amendment Bill.
What happens to Bills that have lapsed?
If a Bill is elapsed by virtue of one or more of the conditions explained above, it will have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha (as is or with amendments) should the new government feel the need for it.
Alternative: Promulgating an Ordinance (Art.123)
The lapse of a Bill in Parliament still does not prevent the incumbent government from issuing an Ordinance to bring forth the legislation it intended to through the lapsed Bill.
According to the Constitution, the government of the day can bring in Ordinance if the Parliament is not in session and if the president is convinced of the urgency of the matter that it can’t wait till the House comes in session again.
The Constitution does not explicitly bans a government nearing the end of its term from doing so.
Since the lifespan of an ordinance in six months, or till the Parliament’s next session (which in this case will be after the election of 17th Lok Sabha) any ordinance promulgated by the current government is likely to outlive its tenure.