The Parliament of India

The Parliament of India

India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of our country. It consists of two Houses - Lok Sabha (House of the People) - External website that opens in a new window and Rajya Sabha (Council of States) - External website that opens in a new window. The President of India has the power to summon and prorogue either of the two Houses of Parliament or to dissolve the Lok Sabha.


Indian Parliament

Indian Parliament  

After the Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950, the first general elections under the new Constitution were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Parliament - External website that opens in a new window came into being in April, 1952.

Article 87(1) of the Constitution provides: "At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons."

In the case of the first session after each general election to Lok Sabha, the President addresses both Houses of Parliament assembled together after the Members have made and subscribed the oath or affirmation and the Speaker has been elected. No other business is transacted till the President has addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together and informed Parliament of the causes of its summons.

Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha - External website that opens in a new window is the body of representatives of the people. Its members are directly elected, normally once in every five years by the adult population above 18 years. The minimum qualifying age for member of the House is 25 years.

The Lok Sabha, as per the Constitution, consists of not more than 530 members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the States, not more than 20 members representing the Union Territories and not more than 2 members of the Anglo-Indian Community who are to be nominated by the President, if he/she is of the opinion that the Anglo-Indian Community is not adequately represented in the Lok Sabha.

The limit on the maximum number of members chosen directly from territorial constituencies in States may be exceeded, if such an increase is incidental to the reorganisation of States by an Act of Parliament.

Unless sooner dissolved by the President, the Lok Sabha continues for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and no longer, as the expiration of the period of five years operates as dissolution of the House. However, while a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, this period may be extended by the Parliament, by law, for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not exceeding in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate.

Lok Sabha elects one of its own members as its Presiding Officer and who is called the Speaker. The Speaker is assisted by the Deputy Speaker who is also elected by Lok Sabha. The conduct of business in Lok Sabha is the responsibility of the Speaker.


Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha  

Rajya Sabha - External website that opens in a new window is the Upper House of Parliament. Its members are not elected by the people directly, but indirectly by the members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States. Twelve of the Rajya Sabha members are nominated by the President from amongst those who have earned distinction in the fields of literature, art, science or social service.

Rajya Sabha is a permanent body. It is not subject to dissolution, but one-third of its members retire every two years. Rajya Sabha was duly constituted for the first time on April 3, 1952 and it held its first sitting on May 13, that year.

The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha. He is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament. Rajya Sabha also elects one of its members to be the Deputy Chairman.

Disqualification of Members of Parliament

By the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985, as amended by the Constitution (Ninety-First Amendment) Act, 2003, a new provision known as Anti-Defection Law for the disqualification of Members of Parliament, on grounds of defection has been incorporated in the Constitution.

Paragraph 8 (1) of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution empowers the Presiding Officers of the two Houses to make rules for giving effect to the provisions of this Schedule.

Under these rules an elected Member of Parliament who has been elected as a candidate set up by a political party would be disqualified on the ground of defection, if he voluntarily gives up his/her membership of such a political party or votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction of such party.

An independent Member of Parliament or a State Legislature will also be disqualified if he/she joins any political party after his/her election.

The question as to whether a member of a House of Parliament or State Legislature has become subject to the disqualification will be determined by the presiding officer of the House; where the question is with reference to the presiding officer himself/herself it will be decided by a member of the House elected by the House on that behalf.

The Members of Lok Sabha (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) (16 KB) - PDF file that opens in a new window Rules, 1985, as framed by the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule, casts a responsibility on the leaders of legislature parties in the House, to furnish to the Speaker a statement, containing the names of members of such legislature party.

The leader of the legislature party is also required to inform the Speaker about the changes that take place in the strength of the party, or in its rules, regulations, constitution etc.

Where a member belonging to any political party votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by such political party, without obtaining the prior permission of such political party, person or authority, the leader of the legislature party concerned, is required to inform the Speaker whether such voting or abstention has or has not been condoned by such political party, person or authority.


Functions of the Parliament

Functions of the Parliament  

The main function of both the Houses is to pass laws. Every Bill has to be passed by both the Houses and assented to by the President before it becomes law. The Parliament can legislate only over the subjects mentioned under the Union List, in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Union subjects are those important subjects which for reasons of convenience, efficiency and security, are administered on all-India basis.

Besides passing laws, Parliament can, by means of resolutions, motions for adjournment, discussions and questions addressed by members, exercise control over the administration of the country and safeguard people's liberties.

Question Hour

A specified period during the proceedings of the House is devoted to the questions the members of the Parliament ask, and the Government ministers are obliged to answer. This period generally takes place during the first hour of the Parliament & is called Question Hour - External website that opens in a new window.

The Question Hour has a special significance in the proceedings of the Parliament as asking question is not only an inherent and unfettered parliamentary right of the members but also a fundamental characteristic of a democracy. During the Question Hour members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and government activity.

There are four types of questions which can be asked during the Question Hour - Starred, Unstarred, Short Notice Questions, and Questions addressed to Private Members. The difference between the two is that an oral answer is expected for the starred questions, while un-starred questions are expected to receive a written reply. Furthermore, in case of starred questions, the member is allowed to ask a supplementary question after the reply from the concerned minister, which is not available for un-starred questions. Both the types of questions are to be asked with not less than fifteen clear days' notice, given in writing.

Additionally, members can also ask Short Notice Questions in the Parliament. Such questions can be asked orally in the House after the Question Hour or as the first item in the agenda where there is no Question Hour at a notice shorter than that prescribed for Starred and Un-starred questions. These must relate to a subject-matter considered by the Chairman to be of urgent public importance.

The Question to a Private Member is addressed to the Member himself/herself and it is asked when the subject matter of it pertains to any Bill, Resolution or any matter relating to the Business of the House for which that Member is responsible. For such Questions, the same procedure is followed as in the case of Questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary or convenient.


Parliamentary Debates

Parliamentary Debates  

The official report of the proceedings of both the Houses of the Parliament, according to Rule 379 and Rule 382 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business - External website that opens in a new window in Lok Sabha, is published, and distributed at the end of the proceedings of the House after each of its sittings. Parliamentary debates are prepared by the Lok Sabha Secretariat under the authority of the Speaker, in such form and manner as the Speaker may direct.

Parliamentary Committees

Parliamentary committees play a vital role in the Parliamentary system. They form a link between the Parliament, the Executive and the general public. Entrusting certain functions of the House to the committees has become a normal practice as the legislature is over-burdened with heavy volume of work, with limited time at its disposal.

It has become all the more necessary as a committee can also provide expertise on a matter which is referred to it. In a committee, the matter can be deliberated at length; views can be expressed freely as the matter can be considered in depth in a calmer atmosphere.

The committees aid and assist the legislature in discharging its duties and regulating its functions effectively, expeditiously and efficiently. Through its committees, the Parliament exercises its control and influence over administration. Parliamentary committees have a salutary effect on the Executive.

Parliamentary committees are appointed or elected by the House, or nominated by the Speaker, and work under the direction of the Speaker, and present their report to the House or to the Speaker, and the Secretariat for which is provided by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.


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