Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Quorum not needed for routine standing committee meetings

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quorum, Parliamentary committees

Mains level : Not Much

The opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha has contradicted the holding the virtual meetings of standing committees to ensure quorum during deliberations.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.With reference to the Parliament of India which of the following Parliamentary Committees scrutinizes and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub rules, bylaws, etc. conferred by the Constitution or delegated by the Parliament is being properly exercised by the Executive within the scope of such delegation?

(a) Committee on Government Assurances

(b) Committee on Subordinate Legislation

(c) Rules Committee

(d) Business Advisory Committee

What is Quorum?

  • A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group.
  • The requirement for a quorum is protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons.
  • Article 100 (3) of the Constitution of India stipulates that at least 10% of the total number of members of the House must be present to constitute the quorum to constitute a meeting of either House of Parliament.
  • Article 189 (3) and (4) provides for similar provisions for State Legislatures.
  • For example, if the House has a total membership of 500, at least 50 members must be present for the House to proceed with its business.

What did RS Secretariat say over the requirement of quorum?

  • Parliamentarian these days are unable to travel to Delhi for obvious COVID reasons.
  • The Rajya Sabha secretariat has said that quorum was essential only when the committees are making decisions or adopting reports and not during routine deliberations.

Back2Basics: What are Standing Committees?

  • Standing Committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament.
  • It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
  • The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a good deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary Committees.
  • Standing Committees are of the following kinds :
  1. Financial Standing Committees (FSC)
  2. Department Related Standing Committees (DRSC)
  3. Others Standing Committees (OSC)

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: How are elections to the Rajya Sabha held?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rajya Sabha and associated facts

Mains level : Significance of the Rajya Sabha

Another round of Rajya Sabha elections has been completed. There are several features that distinguish elections to the Council of States, or the Upper House of Parliament, from the general elections.

Do you know?

  • Only two UTs elect members to the Rajya Sabha, not all.
  • Polling is held only if the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies.
  • Independent members can also be elected etc.

Read this newscard for all such interesting facts which can be directly asked in the prelims.

What is so peculiar about the Rajya Sabha polls?

  • A third of MPs in the Rajya Sabha (which is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution), from each State, retire once in two years and polls are held to fill up the vacancies.
  • Only elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies can vote in a Rajya Sabha election.
  • The legislators send a batch of new members to the Upper House every two years for a six-year term.
  • In addition, vacancies that arise due to resignation, death or disqualification are filled up through by-polls after which those elected serve out the remainder of their predecessors’ term.

Composition of Rajya Sabha

  • A bloc of MPs belonging to one or more parties can elect a member of their choice if they have the requisite numbers.
  • This is to avoid the principle of majority, which would mean that only candidates put up by ruling parties in the respective States will be elected.
  • The Delhi and Puducherry Assemblies elect members to the Rajya Sabha to represent the two UTs.

What is the election process?

  • Polling for a Rajya Sabha election will be held only if the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies.
  • Since the strength of each party in the Assembly is known, it is not difficult to estimate the number of seats a party would win in the Rajya Sabha poll.
  • In many states, parties avoid a contest by fielding candidates only in respect to their strength. Where an extra candidate enters the fray, voting becomes necessary.
  • Candidates fielded by political parties have to be proposed by at least 10 members of the Assembly or 10% of the party’s strength in the House, whichever is less.
  • For independents, there should be 10 proposers, all of whom should be members of the Assembly.

Voting procedure

  • Voting is by single transferable vote, as the election is held on the principle of proportional representation.
  • A single transferable vote means electors can vote for any number of candidates in order of their preference.
  • A candidate requires a specified number of first preference votes to win. Each first choice vote has a value of 100 in the first round.
  • To qualify, a candidate needs one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the total value of the number of seats for which elections are taking place plus one.

Example: If there are four seats and 180 MLAs voting, the qualifying number will be 180/5= 36 votes or value of 3,600.

Why do not the Rajya Sabha polls have a secret ballot?

  • The Rajya Sabha polls have a system of the open ballot, but it is a limited form of openness.
  • As a measure to check rampant cross-voting, which was taken to mean that the vote had been purchased by corrupt means.
  • There is a system of each party MLA showing his or her marked ballots to the party’s authorised agent (called Whip), before they are put into the ballot box.
  • Showing a marked ballot to anyone other than one’s own party’s authorised agent will render the vote invalid.
  • Not showing the ballot to the authorised agent will also mean that the vote cannot be counted.
  • And independent candidates are barred from showing their ballots to anyone.

Is there any NOTA option in voting?

  • The ECI issued two circulars, on January 24, 2014, and November 12, 2015, giving Rajya Sabha members the option to press the NOTA button in the Upper House polls.
  • However, in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the provision, holding that the ‘none of the above’ option is only for general elections.
  • It cannot be applied to indirect elections based on proportional representation.

Does cross-voting attract disqualification?

  • The Supreme Court, while declining to interfere with the open ballot system, ruled that not voting for the party candidate will not attract disqualification under the anti-defection law.
  • As voters, MLAs retain their freedom to vote for a candidate of their choice.
  • However, the Court observed that since the party would know who voted against its own candidate, it is free to take disciplinary action against the legislator concerned.

Can a legislator vote without taking oath as a member of the Assembly?

  • While taking oath as a member is for anyone to function as a legislator, the Supreme Court has ruled that a member can vote in a Rajya Sabha election even before taking oath as a legislator.
  • It ruled that voting at the Rajya Sabha polls, being a non-legislative activity, can be performed without taking the oath.
  • A person becomes a member as soon as the list of elected members is notified by the ECI, it said.
  • Further, a member can also propose a candidate before taking the oath.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Parliamentary Committees and their Significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary committees and its types

Mains level : Parliamentary committees

Amid the on-going India-China border tension, a Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Sino-India relations post the Doklam standoff has been released. It assumes significance as it is the only detailed report on the border issue that has been made available to the public.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

Q.2) What are parliamentary committees? How do they ensure legislature’s and executive’s efficiency and accountability? (250 Words)

Report on Sino-Indian relations post Doklam

  • Submitted by the Shashi Tharoor-led Standing Committee on External Affairs, the report on Sino-India relations including Doklam throws light on border situation and cooperation in international organisations,
  • This Standing Committee report – a bipartisan one as the committee has members from ruling and opposition parties – is one of the very few documents available in which the defence and foreign secretaries.
  • It clarified the government’s official position on India-China border issues including the reported transgressions by the Chinese in the region.
  • It had cautioned the government that it needed to have “healthy scepticism” while dealing with China.
  • The Committee has urged the Government not to let its vigil down in order to prevent any untoward incident in future.

What are the Parliamentary Committees?

  • A good deal of Parliamentary business is transacted in the committees. Both Houses of Parliament have a similar committee structure, with a few exceptions.
  • Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business are also more or less similar and are regulated as per rules made by the two Houses under Article 118(1) of the Constitution.
  • Broadly, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds – Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees.
  • The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less, on a continuous basis.
  • The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as the need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the task assigned to them.

Their significances

  • Apart from debates on bills and issues discussed and debated on the floor of the House, more detailed and in-depth discussions take place on issues as well as legislation in the parliamentary standing committees.
  • Here, MPs belonging to all major parties put forward their views without much consideration to the political differences they have.
  • A considerable amount of legislative work gets done in these smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties.
  • Their reports are tabled in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The Houses do not hold a specific debate on the report, but it is often referred to during the discussions on the bills and the key issues.
  • Committee meetings also provide a forum where members can engage with domain experts as well as senior-most officials of the concerned ministries.

Additional readings: https://knowindia.gov.in/profile/the-union/parliamentary-committees.php

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Should Rajya Sabha be abolished?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Articles related to Rajya Sabha.

Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of Rajya Sabha.

This article is about Rajya Sabha, the second chamber of our union legislature. Its utility was intensely debated in the Constituent Assembly. Now, after almost seven decades of its existence, we know that the house has proved its utility. So, what was the reasoning of those who were in support of its creation and what those who opposed its creation had on their mind? How bicameralism is connected to federalism? You’ll come to know the answers to these questions after reading the article.

Historical background

  • The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.
  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral.
  • Under 1919 Act, Council of States had 60 members and Legislative Assembly had 145 members.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were restrictive.
  • These restrictions meant only wealthy landowners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it.
  • Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Bicameralism and the utility of second house

  • Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
  • This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
  • At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
  • In The Federalist, the famous essay, it was stated that the second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.
  • French philosopher Montesquieu who said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
  • Walter Bagehot later noted that the retarding chamber will impede minor instances of parliamentary tyranny, though it will not prevent or really impede revolution.

Federalism and link with bicameralism

  • Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a central authority.
  • But modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union.
  • It is more so in India. The U.S. is a federation and so is India — each unit has a set of unique features.
  • Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Debate in the Constituent Assembly over need for the second house

  • The proposal for the Rajya Sabha as a second chamber was subjected to serious argumentation and had a narrow escape.
  • Opponents’ stand: A member of the Constituent Assembly asserted that an Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.
  • Other member warned that such a chamber would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
  • The proponents’ stand: A supporter of idea felt that it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  • Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that a second chamber would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
  • Replying to the debate on the motion N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar had to make a strong case for the second chamber.
  • He argued that the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is 1) to hold dignified debates on important issues 2) to delay legislation which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided.

Consider the question, “Examine the role played by the Rajya Sabha as a law-making body. Do you agree that the Rajya Sabha has been successful in fulfilling the role expected of it by the makers of our Constitution?”

Conclusion

The mandate of the Rajya Sabha, as can be gleaned from the Constituent Assembly debates and the experiences of other Parliaments, is legislation — to revise or delay legislation without proving a clog in the wheel of the progress; to represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber, and be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Should we do away with the MPLADS?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MPLADS and its provision.

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with MPLADS.

Since its inception in 1993, MPLADS has continued uninterrupted for 27 years. But COVID-19 came as a roadblock for MPLADS. Recently, it was suspended by the government for two years. As expected it led to huge political drama. However, as an aspirant, it is our duty to cut the drama out and focus on issues that matter. This article discusses MPLADS and argues for its abolition owing to various issues associated with it.

Reason for suspension of MPLADS

  • The government suspended the scheme to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country.
  • It has been suspended for two years.
  • BTW scheme in short: Each MP has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for works to the tune of ₹5 crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency.

Why should MPLADS be abolished?

1. It goes against the spirit of the Constitution

  • The scheme violates one of the cardinal principles: separation of powers.
  • Simply put, this scheme, in effect, gives an executive function to legislators or the legislature.
  • The argument that MPs only recommend projects, but the final choice and implementation rest with the district authorities is unfounded.
  • There are hardly any authorities in the district who have the courage to defy the wishes of an MP.

2. Lacunae in implementation

  • Consider some of the observations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India:
  • Expenditure incurred by the executing agencies being less than the amount booked.
  • Utilisation of funds between 49 to 90% of the booked amount.
  • The scheme envisages that works under the scheme should be limited to asset creation, but 78% of the works recommended were for improvement of existing assets.
  • Wide variations in quantities executed against the quantities specified in the BOQ (Bills of Quantity) in 137 of the 707 works test-checked. Variations ranged from 16 to 2312%.
  • Use of lesser quantities of material than specified by contractors resulting in excess payments and sub-standard works.
  • Delays in issuing work orders ranging from 5 to 387 days in 57% of the works against the requirement of issuing the work order within 45 days.
  • Extensions of time granted to contractors without following the correct procedure.
  • Register of assets created, as required under the scheme, not maintained, therefore location and existence of assets could not be verified.

3. Wide variation in utilisation of MPLADS funds

  • A report published in IndiaSpend has some very interesting insights based on data made available to it by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • A year after they took office, 298 of 543 members of the 16th Lok Sabha— have not spent a rupee from the ₹5 crore.
  • Though ₹1,757 crore had been released for MPLADs, only ₹281 crore had been utilised by all the 543 MPs till May 15, 2015.
  • This means only 16% of the money had been spent in one year by all the MPs put together, because the Lok Sabha was constituted in May 2014.
  • Since the MPLADS began in 1993, ₹5,000 crore was lying unspent with various district authorities by May 15, 2015.
  • It is clear from the details above, as well as later experience, that most MPs use money under MPLADS quite haphazardly, and a significant portion of it is left unspent.

4. Misuse of the money under MPLADS

  • There is widespread talk of money under MPLADS being used to appease or oblige two sets of people: opinion-makers or opinion-influencers, and favourite contractors.
  • There have been cases of the contractor and the MP being financially linked with each other.

5. Legality issue

  • The constitutional validity of MPLADS was challenged in the Supreme Court of India in 1999, followed by petitions in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.
  • The combined judgment for all these petitions was delivered on May 6, 2010, with the scheme being held to be constitutional.
  • The SC seems to have placed an unquestioned trust in the efficacy of the scheme of implementation of MPLADS drawn up by the government without an assessment of the situation prevalent in the field.
  • The court should pay more attention to its skewed implementation, evidence of which is available in audit reports.

Contrast and compare the provision of MPLADS with the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. A direct question on the MPLADS could be asked by the UPSC, for instance, consider this question-“There has been the debate around the MPLADS. Discuss the issues involved in the MPLADS.”

Conclusion

Reports of underutilisation and misutilisation of MPLADS funds continue to surface at regular intervals but there seems to have been no serious attempt to do anything about it till now. Some concrete decisions on the future of the scheme is now inevitable.


 Back2Basics: What is MPLADS?

  • MPLAD is a central government scheme, under which MPs can recommend development programmes involving the spending of Rs 5 crore every year in their respective constituencies.
  • MPs from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including nominated ones, can do so.
  • MPs do not receive any money under these schemes.
  • The government transfers it directly to the respective local authorities.
  • The legislators can only recommend works in their constituencies based on a set of guidelines.
  • For the MPLAD Scheme, the guidelines focus on the creation of durable community assets like roads, school buildings etc.
  • Recommendations for non-durable assets can be made only under limited circumstances.

For example, last month, the government allowed the use of MPLAD funds for the purchase of personal protection equipment, coronavirus testing kits etc.

 

 

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

MPLADS funds suspended over COVID-19 crisis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MPLADS

Mains level : MPLADS and its implementation

The Union Cabinet gave its nod to the temporary suspension of MPLAD Funds during 2020-21 and 2021-22 in view of the adverse impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 in India.

Why suspend MPLAD?

  • The consolidated amount of MPLAD Funds for 2 years – Rs 7,900 crores – will go to Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The Cabinet has also approved an ordinance to reduce the salaries, allowances and pensions of Members of Parliament (MPs), including the Prime Minister, by 30 per cent for one year.
  • The amount so collected would be utilized in the fight against coronavirus.

What is the MPLAD scheme?

  • The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is a programme first launched during the Narasimha Rao Government in 1993.
  • It was aimed towards providing funds for developmental works recommended by individual MPs.

Funds available

  • The MPs then were entitled to recommend works to the tune of Rs 1 crore annually between 1994-95 and 1997-98, after which the annual entitlement was enhanced to Rs 2 crore.
  • The UPA government in 2011-12 raised the annual entitlement to Rs 5 crore per MP.

Implementation

  • To implement their plans in an area, MPs have to recommend them to the District Authority of the respective Nodal District.
  • The District Authorities then identify Implementing Agencies which execute the projects.
  • The respective District Authority is supposed to oversee the implementation and has to submit monthly reports, audit reports, and work completion reports to the Nodal District Authority.
  • The MPLADS funds can be merged with other schemes such as MGNREGA and Khelo India.

Guidelines for MPLADS implementation

  • The document ‘Guidelines on MPLADS’ was published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in June 2016 in this regard.
  • It stated the objective of the scheme to enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs in their Constituencies.
  • Right from inception of the Scheme, durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc. should be created.
  • It recommended MPs to works costing at least 15 per cent of their entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by ST population.
  • It layy down a number of development works including construction of railway halt stations, providing financial assistance to recognised bodies, cooperative societies, installing CCTV cameras etc.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What is Finance Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Finance Bill

Mains level : Finance Bill

The Parliament has passed the Finance Bill 2020 with 40 amendments without any discussion.

Highlights of the Bill

  • Among the important amendments included was one enabling the government to raise additional excise duty on petrol by up to Rs 18 per litre and diesel by up to Rs 12 per litre when required.
  • Amendments enabling the taxation of NRIs’ India-controlled income above Rs 15 lakh, and another extending the DDT exemption to REITs and Infrastructure Investment trusts were passed.
  • The Bill also changes the definition of ‘Resident’, as stipulated under the Income Tax Act.
  • Presently, a person is considered a resident of India, i.e. their global income is taxable in India if they are in the country for more than 182 days a year. This has now been reduced to 120 days.
  • The amendments also include provisions for levying TDS of 1 per cent on e-commerce transactions.

What is a Finance Bill?

  • As per Article 110 of the Constitution, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister.
  • This Bill encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
  • The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament. Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.

Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill

1) Money Bill

  • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations.
  • The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days.
  • However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.

2) Finance Bill

  • In a general sense, any Bill that relates to revenue or expenditure is a Financial Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is introduced in Lok Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha can recommend amendments in the bill. However, the bill has to be passed by the Parliament within 75 days of introduction.

>Types of Finance Bills

Type I

  • Financial Bill Cat-1 is a bill which contains any of the matters specified in Article 110 but does not exclusively deal with such matters.
  • For example- a bill which contains a taxation clause, but does not deal solely with taxation under Article 117 (1), has two features in common with a money bill.
  1. It cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. It can only be introduced in Lok Sabha with the prior recommendation of the President.(Similarities)
  • But has one feature uncommon that is, not being a Money Bill, the Rajya Sabha has the same power to reject or amend such Financial Bill subject to limitation.

Type II

  • It is a finance bill which merely involves expenditure and does not include any of the matters specified in Article 110.
  • It is an Ordinary Bill and may be initiated in either House and the Rajya Sabha has full power to reject or ament it.
  • It is thus apparent that all Money Bills are Financial Bills but all Financial Bills are not Money Bills.

Who decides the Bill is a Finance Bill?

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is authorised to decide whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not.
  • Also, the Speaker’s decision shall be deemed to be final.

Why Finance Bill is needed?

  • The Union Budget proposes many tax changes for the upcoming financial year, even if not all of those proposed changes find a mention in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
  • These proposed changes pertain to several existing laws dealing with various taxes in the country.
  • The Finance Bill seeks to insert amendments into all those laws concerned, without having to bring out a separate amendment law for each of those Acts.
  • For instance, a Union Budget’s proposed tax changes may require amending the various sections of the Income Tax law, Stamp Act, Money Laundering law, etc.
  • The Finance Bill overrides and makes changes in the existing laws wherever required.

What changes can be made via Finance Bill?

  • The most awaited changes in the tax proposals in the Union Budget usually pertain to personal income tax.
  • For taxpayers across the country, the most awaited moment is when the Finance Minister’s speech announces an increase in minimum income threshold, or declares any changes in income tax slabs to make it less costly, or other exemptions.
  • In addition, there might be changes in the rules, procedures, and deadlines for filing tax returns or the payment of tax itself.
  • For instance, there might be a change in the amount of penalty for missing the deadline. Those proposed changes would typically need to be brought in via amending the Income Tax Act.
  • Among other changes, the FM may propose in the Union Budget with regard to the rates or processes for payment or administration of stamp duty levied on various instruments.
  • Such a change would need to be brought in via an amendment to the Stamp Act.
  • Since the introduction of GST, there is no amendment to indirect taxes in the Union Budget, since that is under the purview of the GST Council.

 

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What are Supplementary Grants?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Supplementary grants

Mains level : Various grants in Parliament

Supplementary Grants

Lok Sabha recently held voting on supplementary demands for grants for Jammu and Kashmir and passed the proposals on voice vote.

What are Supplementary Grants?

  • The additional grant required to meet the required expenditure of the government is called Supplementary Grants.
  • When grants, authorised by the Parliament, fall short of the required expenditure, an estimate is presented before the Parliament for Supplementary or Additional grants.
  • These grants are presented and passed by the Parliament before the end of the financial year.
  • When actual expenditure incurred exceeds the approved grants of the Parliament, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Railways presents a Demand for Excess Grant.

How it works?

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India bring such excesses to the notice of the Parliament.
  • The Public Accounts Committee examines these excesses and gives recommendations to the Parliament.
  • The Demand for Excess Grants is made after the actual expenditure is incurred and is presented to the Parliament after the end of the financial year in which the expenses were made.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Nominated members of Rajya Sabha

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nominated members in RS

Mains level : Ethical issue involved

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi has been nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha.

Nominated members in RS

  • As per the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of India on 26 January 1950, the Rajya Sabha was to consist of 216 members of which 12 members were to be nominated by the President and the remaining 204 elected to represent the States.
  • The present strength, however, is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and union territories and 12 are nominated by the President.
  • The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one-third of its members retire every second year.
  • The 12 nominated members of the Rajya Sabha are persons who are eminent in particular fields, and are well known contributors in the particular field.
  • The nominated members are usually amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art and social service.

Constitutional provisions

  • 80(1)(a) of Constitution of India makes provision for the nomination of 12 members to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India in accordance with provisions of Arts.80(3).
  • 80(3) says that the persons to be nominated as members must be possessing special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following namely : Literature, science, art and social service.

Earlier CJIs in other Offices

  • Justice Hidayatullah was appointed vice-president nine years after his tenure as CJI ended (1979).
  • Justice Ranganath Mishra was appointed six years after his retirement (1998).
  • Justice Bahraul Islam served as a member of the Rajya Sabha several years before he was elevated to the SC (1983).
  • Justice Subba Rao, who contested for the post of president (and lost to Zakir Hussain) was roundly criticised for the decision at that time.

Issues with CJI’s appointment

  • Late Arun Jaitley cautioned, in 2012, that “pre-retirement judgments are influenced by a desire for a post-retirement job”. Perhaps, those words were never more relevant than they are today.
  • The immediacy and hurried nature of the present appointment, barely four months after Justice Gogoi retired, is bound to give rise to questions about its context.
  • It was a tenure that inspired much scrutiny; a tenure which saw the repeated use of sealed envelopes, the contents of which were known only to the government; a tenure which recorded a significant and frequent number of judgments in favour of the executive.

What were the alternatives?

  • Several appointments to administrative bodies require a cooling-off period for individuals so as to eliminate the possibility or suspicion of a conflict of interest or quid pro quo.
  • Officials who retire from sensitive positions are barred from accepting any other appointment for a period of time, normally two years.
  • These cooling-off periods in posts are premised on the snapping off of the nexus between previous incumbency and new appointment by the interposition of a sufficient time gap.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Speaker vs Governor Tussle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Discretionary powers of Governor

Mains level : Speaker vs Governor Tussle

With the Supreme Court set to hear on a plea seeking a directive to the government in Madhya Pradesh to take a floor test “within 12 hours”, the spotlight is back on the legal debate on the powers of the Governor and the Speaker under the Constitution.

Primacy to Floor Test

  • Since 2014, the legal-political tussle between the Governor and Speaker has prompted the Supreme Court’s intervention in three major instances — in the Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand cases in 2016 and in the Karnataka case in 2019.
  • In all three cases, the court emphasised the primacy of the floor test.
  • In the Arunachal and Uttarakhand cases, the House was in suspended animation as President’s Rule had been imposed.
  • The Supreme Court ordered that the House be summoned and a floor test held to end the impasse.
  • But Article 212 of the Constitution bars courts from inquiring into proceedings of the Legislature.

Earlier instances

  • Earlier, the Sarkaria Commission had recommended that, if the CM neglects or refuses to summon the Assembly for a floor test, the Governor should summon the Assembly.
  • If the House is adjourned sine die or prorogued without holding a floor test, then all options are open before the Governor.
  • However, when the House is in session, the question of whether the court can direct the Speaker to hold a floor test is yet to be settled.
  • In 1998, in the Jagadambika Pal case, the SC had ordered a composite floor test when the House was in session.
  • However, in that case, there were two claimants to the chief minister’s post.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

When does Speaker suspend MPs from Lok Sabha?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Dignity of the Parliament

Seven MPs of a political party were suspended for unruly behaviour in the Lok Sabha. The motion was passed by a voice vote.

What is the reason for suspending an MP?

  • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Speaker of Lok Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly.
  • This is a daunting task even at the best of times.
  • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House (for the remaining part of the day), or to place him/her under suspension.

What are the rules under which the Speaker acts?

Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business 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.

To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker may take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A. Rule 374 says:

  1. The Speaker may, it deems it necessary, name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.
  2. If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such 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.
  3. A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.

What is the procedure for revocation of a Member’s suspension?

  • While the Speaker is empowered to place a Member under suspension, the authority for revocation of this order is not vested in her.
  • It is for the House, if it so desires, to resolve on a motion to revoke the suspension.

What happens in Rajya Sabha?

  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
  • Any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.
  • The Chairman may name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing business.
  • In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.
  • The House may, however, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member.

Way Forward: Striking a balance

  • There can be no question that the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Speaker is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings. A balance has to be struck.
  • However, it must be remembered that her job is to run the House, not to lord over it.
  • The solution to unruly behaviour has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values.
  • A step in that same direction could be to discontinue the practice of herding people out of the visitors’ gallery when the House witnesses chaos.
  • So, the ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, just as the Opposition insists on its right to protest. And their positions change when their roles flip.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Department-related Standing Committees (DRSCs)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Standing Committees

Mains level : Parliamentary procedures and functioning

Fewer sittings of Parliament are compensated by the working of department-related standing committees (DRSCs) praised Rajya Sabha Chairman.

What are Standing Committees?

  • Standing Committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament.
  • It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
  • The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a good deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary Committees.
  • Standing Committees are of the following kinds :
  1. Financial Standing Committees (FSC)
  2. Department Related Standing Committees (DRSC)
  3. Others Standing Committees (OSC)

About DRSCs

  • There are 24 Department-related Standing Committees (DRSCs). Each of these committees have 31 members – 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  • The 17 Departmentally Related Standing Committees were formally constituted with effect from April, 1993.
  • After experiencing the working of the DRSC system for over a decade, the system was restructured in July,2004 wherein the number of DRSCs was increased from 17 to 24.
  • These members are to be nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha respectively. The term of office of these committees does not exceed one year.
  • These committees are serviced either by Lok Sabha secretariat or the Rajya Sabha secretariat depending on who has appointed the chairman of that committee.

Equal to 10 House sittings

  • During a usual sitting of Parliament, the Houses are convened for six hours. Calculating it accordingly, the meeting of these committees amount to 10 sittings of Parliament.
  • Proportionately, the work done by the 16 Committees of Lok Sabha amounts to another 20 sittings of the Parliament.
  • In all, the work put in by the total 24 DRSCs in examining the Demands for Grants of all the ministries equals 30 days of functioning of the Parliament, which is quite significant.
  • If the working of the committees is taken into account for the entire year, it will amount to significantly higher number of days.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

In news: Two-child Norm

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 47

Mains level : Population explosion in India

A Rajya Sabha MP has introduced a Private Member’s Bill on two-child norms.

Key propositions of the Bill

  • Essentially, the Bill aims to amend the Constitution in order to incentivise limiting families to two children by offering tax concessions, priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions, among other things.
  • It proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.

Article 47A

  • The Bill has sought the incorporation of a new provision, Article 47A in Part IV of the Constitution, to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the “small-family” norm.
  • Article 47A says the following:

 “47A. The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.”

Note: Article 47 of the Indian Constitution is one of the DPSP  which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.

Why such Bill?

  • The Bill’s Statement of Object and Reasons states that the fact that India’s population has already crossed 125 crore is “really frightening”.
  • It goes on to say that India’s population has doubled in the last 40 years and that it is expected to unseat China as the world’s most populous nation in the next couple of decades.
  • Despite the fact that we have framed a National Population Control Policy, we are the second most populous country in the world.
  • Further, the population explosion will cause “many problems” for our future generations.
  • The Bill also makes a reference to “overburdened” natural resources that are overexploited because of overpopulation.

Statewide policies relating to two-child norms

Assam Cabinet has recently decided that those with more than two children will be ineligible for government jobs from 2021. Other states with similar norms:

Rajasthan: For government jobs, candidates who have more than two children are not eligible for appointment.

Madhya Pradesh: The state follows the two-child norm since 2001. Under Madhya Pradesh Civil Services (General Condition of Services) Rules, if the third child was born on or after January 26, 2001, one becomes ineligible for government service. The rule also applies to higher judicial services.

Telangana: Under Section 19 (3) read with Sections 156 (2) and 184 (2) of Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, a person with more than two children shall be disqualified from contesting election. However, if a person had more than two children before May 30, 1994, he or she will not be disqualified.  The same sections in the Andhra Pradesh: AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, apply to Andhra Pradesh, where a person having more than two children shall be disqualified from contesting election.

Gujarat: In 2005, the government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act. The amendment disqualifies anyone with more than two children from contesting elections for bodies of local self-governance — panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations.

Maharashtra: The Maharashtra Zilla Parishads And Panchayat Samitis Act disqualifies people who have more than two children from contesting local body elections (gram panchayats to municipal corporations). The Maharashtra Civil Services Rules, 2005 states that a person having more than two children is disqualified from holding a post in the state government. Women with more than two children are also not allowed to benefit from the Public Distribution System.

Karnataka: The Karnataka (Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj) Act, 1993 does not bar individuals with more than two children from contesting elections to local bodies like the gram panchayat. The law, however, says that a person is ineligible to contest “if he does not have a sanitary latrine for the use of the members of his family”.

Odisha: The Odisha Zilla Parishad Act bars those individuals with more than two children from contesting.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Private Members Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Private Members Bill

Mains level : Difference between private and government Bills

A member in Rajya Sabha appeared to abandon his plan of introducing a private member’s Bill on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a code that would be applicable to all religious communities in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.

Private Member’s Bill

  • A private member’s Bill is different from a government Bill and is piloted by an MP who is not a minister. An MP who is not a minister is a private member.
  • Individual MPs may introduce private member’s Bill to draw the government’s attention to what they might see as issues requiring legislative intervention.

Difference between private and government Bills

  • While both private members and ministers take part in the lawmaking process, Bills introduced by private members are referred to as private member’s Bills and those introduced by ministers are called government Bills.
  • Government Bills are backed by the government and also reflect its legislative agenda.
  • The admissibility of a Private Bill is decided by the Chairman in the case of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker in the case of the Lok Sabha.
  • Before the Bill can be listed for introduction, the Member must give at least a month’s notice, for the House Secretariat to examine it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation.
  • While a government Bill can be introduced and discussed on any day, a private member’s bill can only be introduced and discussed on Fridays.

Has a private member’s bill ever become a law?

  • No private member’s Bill has been passed by Parliament since 1970.
  • To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956.
  • In the 14th Lok Sabha, of the over 300 private member’s Bills introduced, roughly four per cent were discussed, the remaining 96 per cent lapsed without a single dialogue.
  • The selection of Bills for discussion is done through a ballot.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: Regulation of Parliamentary Speech and Conduct

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Regulation of parliamentary speech and conduct of the representatives.

 

Two days of heated exchanges in Parliament have brought back recurring questions around “unparliamentarily” speech and conduct.

No absolute privilege

  • Article 105(2) of the Constitution lays down that “no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof”.
  • However MPs do not enjoy the freedom to say whatever they want inside the House.

Checks on MPs’ speech

  • Whatever an MP says is subject to the discipline of the Rules of Parliament, the “good sense” of Members, and the control of proceedings by the Speaker.
  • These checks ensure that MPs cannot use “defamatory or indecent or undignified or unparliamentary words” inside the House.
  • Rule 380 (“Expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha regulates the speech of MPs.
  • It says: “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.”
  • Rule 381 says: “The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.”

What are Unparliamentary expressions?

  • There are phrases and words, literally in thousands, both in English and in other Indian languages that are “unparliamentary”.
  • The Presiding Officers — Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairperson of Rajya Sabha — have the job of keeping these bad words out of Parliament’s records.
  • For their reference and help, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has brought out a bulky tome titled ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’, the 2004 edition of which ran into 900 pages.
  • The list contains several words and expressions that would probably be considered rude or offensive in most cultures; however, it also has stuff that is likely to be thought of as being fairly harmless or innocuous.
  • The state legislatures too are guided mainly by the same book, which also draws heavily from unparliamentarily words and phrases used in the Vidhan Sabhas and Vidhan Parishads of India.

Examples of unparliamentary

  • Among the words and phrases that have been deemed unparliamentary are “scumbag”, “shit”, “badmashi”, “bad” (as in “An MP is a bad man”), and “bandicoot”, which is unparliamentary if an MP uses it for another, but which is fine if he uses it for himself.
  • If the Presiding Officer is a “lady”, no MP can address her as “beloved Chairperson”.
  • The government or another MP cannot be accused of “bluffing”. “Bribe”, “blackmail”, “bribery”, “thief”, “thieves”, “dacoits”, “bucket of shit”, “damn”, “deceive”, “degrade”, and “darling”, are all unparliamentary.
  • MPs or Presiding Officers can’t be accused of being “double minded”, having “double standards”, being of “doubtful honesty”, being “downtrodden”, indulging in “double talk”, being “lazy”, “lousy”, a “nuisance” or a “loudmouth”.
  • No Member or Minister can be accused of having “deliberately concealed”, “concocted”, of being of a “confused mind”, or being “confused and unintelligent”.
  • An illiterate MP can’t be called “angootha chhaap”, and it is unparliamentary to suggest that a member should be sent to the “ajayabghar” (museum).

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

President’s Address

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provisions for the President/Governors' address

Mains level : President/Governors' address

 

Today, with the first day of the Budget Session of Parliament, Hon’ble President will address a joint sitting of the two Houses.

President’s or Governor’s Address

  • Commonly referred to as the President’s or Governor’s Address, they are a constitutional requirement.
  • The Constitution gives the President and the Governor the power to address a sitting of the legislature. The special power is with regard to two occasions.
  • The first is to address the opening session of a new legislature after a general election. The second is to address the first sitting of the legislature each year.
  • A session of a new or a continuing legislature cannot begin without fulfilling this requirement.
  • When the Constitution came into force, the President was required to address each session of Parliament.
  • So during the provisional Parliament in 1950, the President gave an address for all three sessions. At the suggestion of Speaker G V Mavalankar, the first Constitutional Amendment in 1951 changed this position.
  • Besides being a constitutional requirement, the President’s or Governor’s Address is keenly watched as it outlines the government’s policy agenda and stand on issues.

What procedures follow the address?

  • After the President or Governor delivers the address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country.
  • This then paves the way for discussion on the Budget.

Significance of the address

  • The President’s Address in India is mirrored on the British system.
  • During the framing of the Constitution, B R Ambedkar drew a similarity between the President and the monarch under the English system.
  • He said the President “is the Head of State but not of the executive. He represents the nation but does not rule the nation.
  • He is the symbol of the nation. His place in the administration is that of a ceremonial device of a seal by which the nation’s decisions are made known”.
  • The Constitution binds the President and the Governor to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of the Union and state governments respectively, on a majority of issues.
  • Therefore, the speech that the President or the Governor reads before the legislature is the viewpoint of the government and is prepared by it.

Are there parallels in other countries?

  • Similar provisions exist in other democracies. In the United States, it is referred to as the “State of the Union”.
  • The phrase comes from an article in the US Constitution which specifies that the President from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
  • In the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Queen’s Speech and is part of the ceremony to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.

What is the content of the President’s or Governor’s address?

  • During the making of the Constitution, an unsuccessful attempt was made to bring some specificity to the content of the President’s Address.
  • The President’s speech follows the convention of the British system, where it contains legislative and policy proposals that the government intends to initiate.
  • The speech also recaps the government’s accomplishment in the previous years. The contents of the speech are put together by aggregating inputs from various ministries of the government.

Is the text of the speech binding?

  • The President or a Governor cannot refuse to perform the constitutional duty of delivering an address to the legislature.
  • But there can be situations when they deviate from the text of the speech prepared by the government.
  • So far, there have been no instances of President doing so. But there has been an occasion when a Governor skipped a portion of the address to the Assembly.
  • In 1969, the Governor of West Bengal skipped two paragraphs of the address prepared by the United Front government.
  • The skipped portion described as unconstitutional the dismissal of the first United Front government by the Congress-ruled central government. The issue was then debated in Parliament.
  • The Opposition was critical of the Governor’s conduct and moved a motion disapproving it. But the motion was ultimately defeated.

How have members responded to the addresses over the years?

  • The conduct of MLAs during the address has sometimes been an issue.
  • The Governor’s speech in state legislatures has routinely been interrupted.
  • In Parliament, the first instance of interruption of a President’s speech happened in 1963; President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was speaking when some MPs interrupted him.
  • The Lok Sabha took note of the incident and a reprimand was issued to the MPs.
  • Over the years, political parties have resolved to treat the President’s Address sacrosanct and agreed not to interrupt it.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth (CCIG)

  • In an austerity move, the Union government has decided to reduce wasteful expenditure on items such as travel and food by 20 percent, it is learnt.
  • A decision of this effect was taken at a recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth (CCIG) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • All ministries have been directed to reduce wasteful expenditure on travel, food and conferences by 20 percent.
  • Note: The CCIG was recently created in June 2019.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

250th session of Rajya Sabha

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Significance of Rajya Sabha in Parliamentary procedures


  • The landmark 250th session of Rajya Sabha is commencing from today.
  • A glimpse of the content relating to the journey of Rajya Sabha during the last 67 years since it’s first sitting on 13.5.1952 is furnished below:

Some unique events relating to Rajya Sabha:

Members

  • Total members of Rajya Sabha so far including those with more than one term is 2,282 including 208 women and 137 nominated members.
  • Mahendra Prasad is serving the highest number of 7th term followed by Dr.Manmohan Singh serving 6th term.
  • Najma Heptulla and late Shri Ram Jethmalani are the other two with six terms each.
  • The representation of women in Rajya Sabha increased from 15 (6.94%) in 1952 increased to 31(12.76%) in 2014 and is now  26(10.83%) in 2019.

Casting vote by the Chair

  • The first and the only time when a Presiding Officer of Rajya Sabha cast his  vote was when the Panel Chairman Shri M.A.Baby did so on 5.8. 1991.
  • The voting was tied 39-39 on the Statutory Resolution moved by the opposition seeking disapproval of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance resulting in the victory of the opposition in the House.

President Rule approved only by Rajya Sabha

  • It happened only twice in respect of extension of President Rule in Tamil Nadu and Nagaland in 1977 and in case of Haryana in 1991 when Lok Sabha was dissolved.

Removal of a Judge

  • The only time Rajya Sabha adopted a motion for removal of a Judge was in respect of Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court on 18.8.2011 but he resigned before the motion was taken up in Lok Sabha.

Expulsion of members

  • Rajya Sabha adopted a motion on 15.11.1976 for expulsion of Dr.Subramanian Swamy whose conduct and activities were found by a Committee to be derogatory to the dignity of the House and it’s members.
  • Chatrapal Singh was expelled on 23.11.2005 after Ethics Committee found him guilty of accepting money for asking questions.
  • Swami Sakhsi Ji Maharaj was expelled on 21.3.2006 for irregularities in recommending projects under MPLAD scheme.

Reprimand

  • Former Member of Rajya Sabha Shri K.K.Tiwari was summoned to the Bar of the House and was reprimanded on 1.6.1990 for a statement published in newspapers the same day that brought the office of Chairman and the House to indignity and contempt.

Bill passed by Rajya Sabha but negative by Lok Sabha

  • The Constitution (Sixty-fourth Amendment) Bill 1990 seeking to amend Article 356 relating to extension of President’s Rule in Punjab.

Bills passed by Lok Sabha but negatived by Rajya Sabha (5)

  • The Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 1970 seeking to terminate privy purses and privileges of former Indian States, The Banking Service Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1977, The Constitution (Sixty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 1989 seeking to insert a new Part IX in the constitution relating to Panchayats, The Constitution (Sixty-fifth Amendment) Bill, 1989 relating to Nagar Panchayats and Municipalities and The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002.

Bill reconsidered by Rajya Sabha

  • Rajya Sabha passed the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill on 17.5.2006 as earlier passed by Lok Sabha but the President referred the same for reconsideration on 30.5.2006.
  • Rajya Sabha reconsidered the same and passed as it was on 27.7.2006 and Lok Sabha passed it four later and was later assented to by the President on 18.8.2006.

Bills passed at the joint sittings of both the Houses of Parliament (3)

  • The Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959 was first introduced in and passed by Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha later insisted on some amendments to which Lok Sabha did not agree. The Bill was passed on 9.5.1961 at a joint sitting.
  • The Banking Service Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1978 first introduced in and passed by Lok Sabha was later rejected by Rajya Sabha. It was passed on 16.5.2018 at a joint sitting.
  • The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002 passed by Lok Sabha was negatived by Rajya Sabha and was later passed at a joint sitting on 26.3.2002.

Some firsts relating to Rajya Sabha

  • First sitting of the House was held on 13.5.1952
  • First Bill passed : The Indian Tariff (Second Amendment) Bill, 1952
  • First Bill concerning social change: The Special Marriages Bill, 1952
  • First Constitution Amendment Bill passed by Rajya Sabha: The Constitution (Second Amendment) Bill, 1953 for readjustment of representation in Lok Sabha by increasing the size of population per constituency.
  • First Bill on Law and Order: The Preventive Detention (Second Amendment) Bill, 1952
  • First Bill on imports: The Live-stock Importation (Amendment) Bill, 1953
  • First media related Bill: The Press (Objectionable Matters) Amendment Bill, 1953
  • First on reorganization of States: The Andhra State Bill, 1953
  • First Bill on health education: The All India Institute of Medical Sciences Bill, 1955
  • First on urban development : The Faridabad Development Corporation Bill, 1955
  • First on agriculture: The Agriculture Produce (Development and Warehousing Corporations) Bill, 1956
  • First Bill on all-India services: The All India Services (Amendment) Bill, 1958
  • First security related Bill: The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Bill, 1958
  • First relating to animals: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Bill, 1959
  • First on corporate take over: The Jayanti Shipping Company (Taking Over of Management) Bill, 1966
  • First on pollution: The Prevention of Water Pollution Bill, 1969
  • First nationalization Bill: The Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Bill, 1970
  • First against economic offences: The Economic Offences (Incapability of Limitation) Bill, 1974
  • First Money Bill deemed to have been passed by Rajya Sabha: The Appropriation (Railways) No.4 Bill, 1978
  • First Bill referring to terrorism: The Terrorist Affected Areas (Special Courts) Bill, 1984

Bills passed by Lok Sabha and amended by Rajya Sabha

The 120 such  Bills include; The Companies Bill, 1953, The UGC Bill, 1954, The Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 1978, The Chit Funds Bill, 1982, The Prevention of Corruption Bill, 1988, The Prevention of Money Laundering Bill, 2002, The Special Economic Zones Bill, 2005, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2013, The Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktas Bill, 2016, The National Medical Council Bill, 2019 and The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Speaker of the Lok Sabha

Mains level : Terms of reference for Speaker

  • Om Birla, a Member of Parliament from Rajasthan, was elected Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha.

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower house of the Parliament of India.
  • The speaker is elected generally in the very first meeting of the Lok Sabha following general elections.
  • Serving for a term of five years, the speaker chosen from sitting members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), and is by convention a member of the ruling party or alliance.

Election

  • Newly elected MPs from the Lok Sabha elect the Speaker among themselves.
  • It is desired Speaker should be someone who understands Lok Sabha functions and it is someone accepted among the ruling and opposition parties.
  • MP’s propose a name to Pro tem speaker. These names are notified to President of India. President through their aid Secretary- General notifies the election date. If only one name is proposed, Speaker is elected without any formal vote.
  • However, if more than 1 nomination are received, a division (vote) is called.
  • MPs vote for their candidate on such date notified by President. Successful candidate is elected as Speaker of the Lok Sabha until next general election

Powers and Functions

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha conducts the business in house; and decides whether a bill is a money bill or not.
  • She/he maintains discipline and decorum in the house and can punish a member for their unruly behaviour by suspending them.
  • She/he also permit the moving of various kinds of motions and resolutions such as a motion of no confidence, motion of adjournment, motion of censure and calling attention notice as per the rules.
  • The Speaker decides on the agenda to be taken up for discussion during the meeting.
  • Further, all comments and speeches made by members of the House are addressed to the Speaker.
  • The Speaker also presides over the joint sitting of both houses of the Parliament of India.

Removal from office

  • Speaker can be removed by the Lok Sabha by a resolution passed by an effective majority (>50% of total strength excluding vacancies) of the house as per Articles 94 (vacation) and 96 (resolution for removal).
  • Speaker is also removed on getting disqualified for being Lok Sabha member under sections 7 and 8 of Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • This would arise out of speaker’s wrong certification of a bill as money bill inconsistent with the definition given in Articles 110 of the constitution.
  • When courts uphold the unconstitutional act of the speaker for wrong certification of a bill as money bill, it amounts to disrespecting the constitution deserving conviction under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
  • It is applicable for disqualification of speaker’s Lok Sabha membership under section 8K of Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • However the omissions in the procedure committed by the speaker in the Lok Sabha can not be challenged in court of law per Article 122.

 


Also read:

 

Chairman of Rajya Sabha

  • The counterpart of the Speaker in the Rajya Sabha (Council of the States) is its Chairperson; the Vice President of India is the ex-officio chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
  • On the order of precedence, the Speaker of Lok Sabha ranks sixth, along with the Chief Justice of India. The Speaker is answerable to the House.
  • Both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker may be removed by a resolution passed by the majority of the members.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: Appointment of the Pro-tem Speaker

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Protem Speaker, Leader of the Rajya Sabha

Mains level : Appointment and Functions of the Protem Speaker

  • A MP from Madhya Pradesh Virendra Kumar will be the Pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Pro-tem Speaker

  • Pro-tem is a Latin phrase which translates to for the time being in English and so the Pro-tem Speaker is a temporary speaker appointed for a limited period of time.
  • Pro-tem speaker is chosen for the conduct of the house when the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies have been elected and the vote for the speaker and deputy speaker has not taken place.
  • The Pro-tem Speaker presides over the first sitting of the Lok Sabha, administer the oath of office to the newly elected MPs, and oversee the election of the Speaker.
  • Once the new Speaker is elected, the office of the pro tem speaker ceases to exist. He also administers the floor test.

Her/his Appointment

  • After a general election and the formation of a new government, a list of senior Lok Sabha members prepared by the Legislative Section is submitted to the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, who selects a pro tem speaker.
  • The appointment has to be approved by the President.
  • The first meeting after the election when the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are selected by members of the Parliament is held under the pro tem Speaker.

Must Read:

Leader of Rajya Sabha

  • Besides the Chairman (Vice-President of India) and the Deputy Chairman, there is also a position called Leader of the House.
  • This is a cabinet minister – the Prime Minister if he is a member of the House, or another nominated Minister.
  • The Leader has a seat next to the Chairman, in the front row.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Leader of Opposition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LoP and its appointment

Mains level : Importance of LoP

  • A national political party has stated that it will not stake claim for the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament since it is short of the necessary numbers to be eligible for the position.
  • The second largest party in the house after the majority only has 52 members which is three short of the necessary figure.

Leader of Opposition

  • The LOP is leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house.
  • It is a statutory post defined in the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
  • The Act says that LoP is the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman/Speaker of the House.
  • In Lok Sabha, total strength is 545 members so any party that has 55 members can get the post as recognised as such by the speaker/chairman.

Importance of LoP: The shadow PM

  • The Westminster model that India follows the opposition is a recognizable entity and the LoP is referred to as the ‘shadow Prime Minister’.
  • She/he is expected to be ready to take over if the government falls.
  • The LoP also plays an important role in bringing cohesiveness and effectiveness to the opposition’s functioning in policy and legislative work.

Selection Procedure

  • The procedure for recognising the leader of the opposition is well laid down.
  • On a request being made by the numerically largest party in the opposition, its designated leader be recognised as the leader of the opposition.
  • After the request is examined by her or his secretariat, the speaker/chairman accords recognition to that person.

Legal position of 10% Formulation

  • The point to note here is that the statute gives the numerically largest party in the opposition the right to have a leader recognised as leader of the opposition by the speaker.
  • Former Deputy Chairman of RS P.J. Kurien pointed that legally the party is entitled to the position.
  • The 10% formulation is inconsistent with the law ‘the salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in Parliament Act, 1977’ which only says that the largest opposition party should get the post.
  • The “10%” rule was in fact brought in 1985 by the then LS Speaker Balram Jakhar to deny the position to a party from then Andhra Pradesh.

Way Forward

  • No matter whosoever gets the majority, the LoP is critical to effective functioning of the opposition in the Parliament.
  • Now that there is a law recognising the LoP, passed by the Parliament, it has to be enforced and
  • LoP plays a crucial role in bringing bipartisanship and neutrality to the appointments in institutions of accountability and transparency – CVC, CBI, CIC, Lokpal etc.
  • It can’t be overlooked or undermined, no matter what the flexibility or ambiguity that exist in the legal framework.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

[op-ed snap] Trickeries of the money bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Money Bill, Financial Bill

Mains level : Spirit of constitution should be maintained in money and financial Bill.

CONTEXT

The Supreme Court has now heard oral arguments in Revenue Bar Association (RBA) v. Union of India, in which the validity of the Finance Act of 2017, insofar as it affects the structure and functioning of various judicial tribunals, is under challenge.

Background

  • Ordinarily, the Finance Act, which is enacted at the beginning of every accounting year, seeks to give effect to the government’s fiscal policies.
  • In 2017, however, the state wielded the statute like a blunderbuss.
  • It not only set the fiscal agenda for the year ahead but it also toppled the existing regime governing the working of 26 different judicial bodies.
  • Until recently, each of these panels was governed by a separate statute, and those laws individually contained a set of principles providing for, among other things, the criteria employed to select and remove members to and from these bodies, and for salaries, allowances and other such service conditions of the members.

Concerns

  • The petitioners argued that this move runs sharply athwart judicial independence. The new law, in their belief, deputed to the executive what was really an essential legislative function.
  • Many of these tribunals, which included the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, and the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, they pointed out, performed roles that were originally undertaken by the higher judiciary.
  • To assign to the executive’s whims the task of establishing the criteria employed in selecting members to the panels and to provide for the members’ service conditions was, therefore, pernicious to the basic principle of separation of powers.
  • Despite the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that the chairperson of a judicial tribunal ought to be equivalent to the Chief Justice of the high courts, as a result of the rules now made in furtherance of the Finance Act, in 13 different tribunals, a person who is merely qualified to be appointed as a judge of a high court can be selected as the presiding officer.

Need for reforms

  • In B.R. Ambedkar’s vision, the Constitution embodied not only a charter of rights but also a foundation for republican governance. His worries that democracy in India was “only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic”, saw him lay stress on a need to diffuse constitutional morality among India’s citizens.

Loopholes

  • One such clause, Article 110(1), grants to the Lok Sabha Speaker the authority to certify a draft law as a money bill so long as such legislation deals only with all or any of the matters specifically listed in the provision.
  • These include subjects such as the imposition or abolition of a tax, the declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India, and, significantly, also any matter otherwise incidental to the subjects specified in Article 110.
  • The ensuing clause clarifies that a draft law will not be a money bill for the reason that it also provides for the imposition or abolition of a tax.
  • In other words, substantive laws, which are not merely incidental to the subjects enlisted in Article 110(1) cannot be finagled into a bill that also happens to contain taxing rules. It is precisely such trickery that the petitioners contended the Finance Act of 2017 indulges in.
  • The Union government, for its part, argued that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha was not only correct in making the classification, but that, in any event, her decision was beyond judicial review.
  • To this end, the government relied on Article 110(3), which states that in cases where a dispute arises over whether a bill is a money bill or not, the Speaker’s decision shall be considered final.
  • But, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, the finality accorded to the Speaker’s decision does not altogether oust the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Ultimately, the Speaker derives her power from the Constitution. In classifying a draft law as a money bill, therefore, her decision has to be demonstrably justifiable.
  • An immunity from judicial scrutiny would effectively allow the government to elude the Rajya Sabha’s constitutional checks by simply having the Speaker classify a draft law as a money bill regardless of whether it, in fact, meets the conditions stipulated in Article 110(1) or not.

Way Forward

  • The idea behind a money bill is derived from British parliamentary custom.
  • But unlike in Britain, where judicial review of the Speaker’s opinion is unambiguously prohibited, in India, Article 110 avoids creating any such bar.
  • Money bills exist simply to ensure that the Rajya Sabha isn’t allowed to bring down a government by refusing it access to the exchequer for everyday governance.
  • To use it as a means to nullify the Upper House’s democratic role in making substantive legislation denigrates the Constitution’s form which Ambedkar and the Constituent Assembly considered inviolate.
  • The Supreme Court has already squandered at least two opportunities in recent times to provide a sense of sanctity to the Constitution’s carefully structured arrangements.
  • The dispute over the Finance Act of 2017, therefore, assumes particular significance.
  • In deciding the case, the court will do well to pay heed to Ambedkar’s warnings, by recognising that the niceties of constitutional form are not a matter of trifles.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: Privilege Motion

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Privilege Motion

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Privilege Motion

  1. Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  2. When any of these rights and immunities is disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  3. A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  4. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

What are the rules governing privilege?

  1. Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rulebook govern privilege.
  2. It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  3. The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

Role of the LS Speaker/RS Chairperson

  1. The first level of scrutiny that a privilege motion has to go through is that of the Speaker, in case the motion is moved in the Lok Sabha and that of the Chairperson when a motion is moved in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. The Speaker/Chair may decide on the privilege motion at their own discretion or they may refer it to a parliamentary committee.
  3. The Speaker/Chair has authority to admit or dismiss the Privilege Motion.
  4. The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
  5. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
  6. The Speaker/Chair can seek the services of “Committee of Privileges” to establish the allegations with facts. The committee may also recommend any punishment, which the Speaker may or may not accept.

Privileges Committee

  1. In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration.
  2. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report.
  3. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.
  4. A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
  5. The process is similar in the Upper House, except that the privilege committee consists of 10 members and is headed by the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
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