|The Indian Parliament comprises two Houses – Lok Sabha (House of the People), and Rajya Sabha, (Council of the States), and the President of India. Parliament has four primary functions: to make laws, to sanction government expenditure, to oversee the work of the government, and to represent the interests of the people.
|Q.1: What is Parliament?
According to the Constitution of India, the union legislative body is called the Parliament. The Hindi term for Parliament is Sansad. The Parliament includes the President and the two Houses – the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha). This kind of system, with two Houses, is called a bicameral legislature.
Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha (Council of States) is the Upper House of Parliament. The House has a maximum of 250 members, out of which 12 members are nominated by the President for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature, science, and social services. The remaining 238 members are elected by the members of the legislative bodies from the States and Union Territories. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and unlike the Lok Sabha, it cannot be dissolved at any time.
Each member of the Rajaya Sabha serves for a term of six years. But one third of its members retire at the expiration of every two years. The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. It, however, elects a Deputy Chairman from among its members who takes care of the day-to-day working of the House. Both Houses have equal legislative powers except in the area of finance where the Lok Sabha is given overriding powers.
Lok Sabha: The Lok Sabha (House of the People) is the Lower House of Parliament. The members are directly elected to the House. The electorate consists of all citizens who have attained 18 years of age and are otherwise not disqualified to vote under the law. Under the Constitution, the maximum strength of the Lok Sabha can be 552 members. The Constitution provides that up to 530 members would represent territorial constituencies in the states, up to 20 members would represent the Union Territories, and two members would be appointed by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community if there is inadequate representation of the community.
The minimum age for qualification as a member of the Lok Sabha is 25 years. Each Lok Sabha is formed for a period of five years, at the end of which the House is dissolved. The House can be dissolved before the completion of the term or it can be extended by a Proclamation of Emergency. The period of extension cannot exceed one year at a time. A Speaker and a Deputy Speaker, elected by the members of the Lok Sabha, conduct day to day business. The Deputy Speaker presides during the absence of the Speaker.
Q.2: What are the functions of Parliament?
In the Indian system, the Council of Ministers are also Members of Parliament (that is, there is an overlap of the legislative and executive functions for several members) For those members who are part of the Council of Ministers, there is an additional responsibility of the executive as compared to those who are not in the Council of Ministers.
The broad functions of Parliament can be described as follows:
- Legislative responsibility: To pass laws
- Oversight responsibility: To ensure that the executive (i.e. government) performs its duties satisfactorily
- Representative responsibility: To represent the views and aspirations of the people of their constituency in Parliament.
- “Power of the Purse” responsibility: To approve and oversee the revenues and expenditures proposed by the government
Q.3: What constitutes the Government of India?
The President is the formal, constitutional head of the Republic of India. After the Lok Sabha elections, the President invites the leader of the party or parties with the majority of votes in the Lok Sabha to form the Government. The President appoints the leader of the majority party as the Prime Minister and on the advice of the Prime Minister appoints other ministers. The ministers can be chosen from both Houses of Parliament. The political power is vested with the Prime Minister and his team of ministers – the Council of Ministers.
The Council of Ministers constitute the Government of India and the government is headed by the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, (together forming the Executive) is responsible for the governance of the country and is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. If the Lok Sabha passes a motion of no-confidence (See Q 31) against the Council of Ministers, the term of the Government comes to an end. As the leader of the majority, the Prime Minister is also the Leader of the Lok Sabha. He has to perform certain parliamentary functions like proposing dates of calling the House in session to the Speaker and drawing up the programme of official business. The leader of the largest party in opposition in each House is designated as the Leader of the Opposition.
Q.4: What is the role of the President of India with regard to Parliament?
The President is the constitutional head of Republic of India, directly elected by an electoral college that includes elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
The President performs certain constitutional functions:
- The President invites the leader of the majority party to form the Government after a new Lok Sabha is duly elected.
- The President nominates 12 members of the Rajya Sabha and has the right to nominate two members from the Anglo Indian community to the Lok Sabha if they are under-represented.
- On the advice of the Executive, the President summons the two Houses of Parliament to meet from time to time.
- The President has the power to discontinue a session in the two Houses and dissolve the Lok Sabha (in consultation with the Executive).
- The President has to agree to sign a Bill (see Q7) before it can become a law.
- If the Houses are not in session, the President can enact or promulgate Ordinances (see Q25) having the same validity as a law passed in Parliament.
- The President has the power to appoint the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha on an interim basis. - The President has the right to address either or both Houses of Parliament.
- The President has the power to call both Houses for a joint sitting in case a dispute arises over passing a Bill. In the joint sitting, the matter is decided by majority vote.
Q.5: What are the special powers of Rajya Sabha?
Rajya Sabha enjoys certain special powers.
They are as follows:
· Rajya Sabha can declare that it would be in the national interest for the Parliament to make laws on any subject in the State List; and
· Rajya Sabha is empowered to make laws creating one or more All India Services, which would be common to the Union and State, if it is deemed to serve the national interest. The services such as the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, and All-India Judicial Service are part of the All India Services.
Q.6: What are the qualifications and disqualifications for being a Member of Parliament?
To be qualified to become a Member of Parliament a person must be:
· a citizen of India;
· not less than 30 years of age in the case of the Rajya Sabha and not less than 25 years in the case of the Lok Sabha; and
· a voter for any parliamentary constituency in India, but in the case of the Rajya Sabha a candidate must be registered as an elector in the State or Union Territory from where he is to be chosen.
There are, however, certain disqualifications for becoming a member. A person would be ineligible for being a member of either House of Parliament if the person:
· holds any office of profit under the government other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder; · is of unsound mind;
· is an undischarged insolvent;
· has ceased to be a citizen of India;
· is so disqualified by any law made by Parliament;
· is so disqualified on the ground of defection
Besides, certain laws enumerate further disqualifications. If a person has been convicted, among other things, for promoting enmity between different groups or convicted for the offence of bribery or has been punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry, or sati, then he is disqualified from being chosen as a member.
There are also disqualifications on the grounds that the person is convicted for an offence and sentenced to imprisonment; and for a government servant dismissed for corruption or for disloyalty to the State.