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Posts Tagged ‘speaker’

Monsoon Session 2018: What to Expect

July 17th, 2018 No comments

The Monsoon Session of Parliament begins tomorrow and will continue till August 10, 2018.  It is scheduled to have 18 sittings during this period.  This post outlines what is in store in the upcoming session.

The session has a packed legislative agenda.  Presently, there are 68 Bills pending in Parliament.  Of these, 25 have been listed for consideration and passage.  In addition, 18 new Bills have been listed for introduction, consideration, and passage.  This implies that Parliament has the task of discussing and deliberating 43 Bills listed for passage in an 18-day sitting period.  Key among them include the Bills that are going to replace the six Ordinances currently in force.  The government is going to prioritize the passage of these six Bills to ensure that the Ordinances do not lapse.

Besides the heavy legislative agenda, the session will also witness the election of a new Deputy Chairman for the Upper House.  Former Deputy Chairman, P.J. Kurien’s term ended on July 1, 2018.  The upcoming election has generated keen interest, and will be closely watched.  The role of the Deputy Chairman is significant, as he quite frequently oversees the proceedings of the House.  The Deputy Chairman is responsible for maintaining order in the house and ensuring its smooth functioning.  The preceding Budget Session was the least productive since 2000 due to disruptions.  Rajya Sabha spent only 2 hours and 31 minutes discussing legislative business, of which 3 minutes were spent on government Bills.  In this context, the role of the Deputy Chairman is important in ensuring productivity of the house.

Another key player in ensuring productivity of Parliament is the Speaker of the Lower House.  In Budget Session 2018, the Speaker was unable to admit a no confidence motion.  This failure was based on her inability to bring the house in order.  Repeated disruptions led to the passage of only two Bills in Lok Sabha.  The same session also saw disruptions by certain MPs demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh.  Between the last session and the upcoming session, a key development includes the resignation of five YRSC members, reducing the strength of MPs from Andhra Pradesh to 20.  In light of this, one has to wait to see whether the demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh will be raised again.

Coming to the legislative agenda, of the six Bills that aim to replace Ordinances, key include: (i) the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, (ii) the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, (iii) the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and (iv) the Commercial Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018.  The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill aims to confiscate the properties of people who have absconded the country in order to avoid facing prosecution for economic offences.  The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha in March 2018.  Subsequently, an Ordinance was promulgated on April 21, 2018.  The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill increases the punishment for rape of women, and introduces death penalty for rape of minor girls below the age of 12.  The Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill aims to address existing challenges in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.  It amends the Code to include homebuyers as financial creditors in the insolvency resolution process.

There are some Bills that have been passed by one house but are pending in the other, and some that are pending in both the houses.  These cut across various sectors, including social reform, education, health, consumer affairs, and transport.  Some key reformative legislation currently pending include the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, and the Triple Talaq Bill.  The Triple Talaq Bill, passed on the day of introduction in Lok Sabha, is pending in Rajya Sabha.  When introduced in Rajya Sabha, the opposition introduced a motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.  In the forthcoming session, it remains to be seen whether the Bill will be sent to a Select Committee for detailed scrutiny or will be passed without reference to a Committee.  Other pending legislation include the the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, the RTE (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017, the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 and the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

Of the 18 new Bills listed for introduction, all have been listed for consideration and passage as well.  These include the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018, the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, and amendments to the RTI Act.  Since they have been listed for passage, it remains to be seen whether these Bills are scheduled to be scrutinized by a Parliamentary Committee.  In the 16th Lok Sabha, only 28% of the Bills introduced in Lok Sabha have been referred to Committees.  This number is low in comparison to 60% and 71% of the introduced Bills being referred to Committees in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha, respectively.  Committees ensure that Bills are closely examined.  This facilitates informed deliberation on the Bill, and strengthens the legislative process.

Besides taking up the legislative agenda, an important function of Parliament is to discuss issues of national importance and hold the government accountable.  In the previous session, the issue of irregularities in the banking sector was repeatedly listed for discussion.  However, due to disruptions, it was not taken up.  Budget Session 2018 saw the lowest number of non- legislative debates since the beginning of the 16th Lok Sabha.  In the upcoming session, it is likely that members will raise various issues for discussion.  It remains to be seen whether Parliament will function smoothly in order to power through its agenda, and fulfil its obligation to hold the government accountable.

 

Mechanism of voting and recording of votes in Parliament

December 24th, 2010 7 comments

The convention for passing Bills in the Parliament is by orally communicating agreement or disagreement with the proposed motion (whether a Bill should be passed or not, for example). When a motion is put to vote the speaker says, ‘Those in the favour of the motion say Aye and those opposing it say No.’ According to the voice vote, the Speaker decides whether the Bill is accepted or negated by the House.

If a member is not happy with a voice vote, it can be challenged and a division can be asked for. The procedure for division entails the Speaker to announce for the lobbies of Parliament to be cleared. Then the division bell rings continuously for three and a half minutes and so do many connected bells all through Parliament House and Parliament House Annexe. MPs come from all sides into the chamber and the doors are closed. The votes are recorded by the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment.

For example, in the Winter Session of the Parliament, four appropriation bills (financial Bills) were passed by voice vote amidst the interruptions from the opposition and two bills i.e. The Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010 and The Constitution (One Hundred and Thirteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010 (Amendment of Eighth Schedule) were passed through division. For these Bills the voting took place together. The votes recorded were: 298 ayes and 0 noes.

Can Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) summon ministers?

December 21st, 2010 No comments

One of our earlier posts (read here) tackled the question of whether the Public Accounts Committee could summon ministers or not. According to a direction of the speaker, a Minister cannot be summoned by a financial committee.

There are no specific procedures for the Joint Parliamentary Committees mentioned in the rules. However, according to the Directions by the Speaker general rules applicable to Committees shall apply to all Committees, though specific directions can be given for some committees (read here).  In other words, the general directions for all committees would be the same, unless a specific direction was given relating to a particular committee.

In the Joint Committee of Stock Market Scam and Matters relating there to, a specific request was made to the Speaker, Lok Sabha by the Chairman, JPC on 20th May, 2002 for permitting the Committee to call for written information on certain points from the Minister of Finance and Minister of External Affairs. The Speaker accorded the necessary permission on 1st June, 2002.

Consequently, the Minister of Finance (Shri Jaswant Singh), the Minister of External Affairs (Shri Yashwant Sinha) and the former Finance and External Affairs ministers (Shri P. Chidambaram and Dr. Manmohan Singh respectively) testified before the Committee. Read the text of the report here.

Assets and Liabilities of MPs after election

December 20th, 2010 No comments

It is common knowledge that individuals contesting elections have to file an affidavit, declaring (i) their criminal records (if any), (ii) assets & liabilities and (iii) educational qualification.  What is not widely known is that after getting elected, Members of Parliament are required to file a declaration of assets and liabilities with the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.   The rules to this effect were made in 2004 under the Representation of Peoples Act , 1951.

These declarations have to be made by MPs within 90 days of taking their seat in Parliament.  Rules for Lok Sabha MPs an be found hereand those for Rajya Sabha MPs can be found here.

The Rajya Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by MPs shall be made availaible to any person with the written permission of the Chairman.  The rules also specify that Rajya Sabha MPs are required to update their declarations every year.

The Lok Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by the Lok Sabha MPs shall be treated as confidential and shall not be made available to any person without the written permission of the Speaker.  The rules also do not contain an express provision for the declaration made by the MPs to be updated in case there is a change in the status of their assets and liabilities.

Such rules under the Representation of Peoples Act currently do not exist for MLAs in States.

Defections in Parliament

February 8th, 2010 1 comment

In the late 1960s and 70s, defections (elected legislators changing parties after the election) in Parliament and State Legislatures became very frequent, so frequent in fact, that the epithet “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram” was coined to describe the same.  To curb this problem which created instability in our legislatures, Parliament amended the Constitution.  They inserted the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution “to curb the evil of political defections”.  As a result, we currently have an anti-defection law with the following features:

1.  If an MP/MLA who belongs to a political party voluntarily resigns from his party or, disobeys the party “whip” (a direction given by the party to all MPs/ MLAs to vote in a certain manner), he is disqualified.   The party may however condone the MP/ MLA within 15 days.

2.  An independent MP/ MLA cannot join a political party after the election.

3.  An MP/ MLA who is nominated (to the Rajya Sabha or upper houses in state legislatures) can only join a party within 6 months of his election.

4.  Mergers of well-defined groups of individuals or political parties are exempted from disqualification if certain conditions are met.

5.  The decision to disqualify is taken by the Speaker/ Chairman of the House.

The table below summarizes provisions of anti-defection law in some other countries.  (For more, click here).  As one may note, a number of developed countries do not have any law to regulate defection.

Regulation of defection in some countries

Country Experi-ence Law on defection The Law on Defection
Bangladesh Yes Yes The Constitution says a member shall vacate his seat if he resigns from or votes against the directions given by his party.  The dispute is referred by the Speaker to the Election Commission.
Kenya Yes Yes The Constitution states that a member who resigns from his party has to vacate his seat.  The decision is by the Speaker, and the member may appeal to the High Court.
Singapore Yes Yes Constitution says a member must vacate his seat if he resigns, or is expelled from his party.  Article 48 states that Parliament decides on any question relating to the disqualification of a member.
South Africa Yes Yes The Constitution provides that a member loses membership of the Parliament if he ceases to be a member of the party that nominated him.
Australia Yes No
Canada Yes No
France Yes No
Germany Yes No
Malaysia Yes No
United Kingdom Yes No