Sessions of Indian Parliament – Indian Polity UPSC

In this article, you can read about the Sessions of Indian Parliament for the UPSC exam.

Sessions of Indian Parliament

The president from time to time summons each House of Parliament to meet. But, the maximum gap between two sessions of Parliament can not be more than six months. In other words, the Parliament should meet at least twice a year.

There are usually three sessions in a year, viz,

  1. the Budget Session (February to May);
  2. the Monsoon Session (July to September); and
  3. the Winter Session (November to December).

A ‘session’ of Parliament is the period spanning between the first sitting of a House and its prorogation (or dissolution in the case of the Lok Sabha). During a session, the House meets every day to transact business. The constitution of India has imposed the duty upon the President that he/she must summon each house at such intervals that the maximum time gap between two sessions of the parliament is 6 months. So the parliament must meet twice a year. Prorogation is the end of a session. The time between the Prorogation and reassembly is called “Recess”.

Budget Session

  • The budget session is held from February to May every year.
  • It is considered to be a highly crucial session of the Parliament.
  • The Budget is usually presented on the last working day of the month of February.
  • Here, the members discuss the various provisions of the budget and matters concerning taxation, after the Finance Minister presents the budget.
  • The budget session is generally split into two periods with a gap of one month between them.
  • This session every year starts with the President’s Address to both Houses.

Monsoon Session

  • The monsoon session is held from July to September every year.
  • This is after a break of two months after the budget session.
  • In this session, matters of public interest are discussed.

Winter Session

  • The winter session of Parliament is held in mid-November to mid-December every year.
  • It is the shortest session of all.
  • It takes up the matters that could not be considered upon earlier and makes up for the absence of legislative business during the second session of the Parliament.

Joint Session of Parliament

  • The Constitution of India provides for the joint sitting of the Parliament’s two Houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, in order to break any deadlock between the two.
  • The joint sitting of the Parliament is called by the country’s President.
  • Such a session is presided over by the Speaker, and in his/her absence, by the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha. In the absence of both, it is presided over by the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • If any of the above are not present, any other member of the Parliament can preside by consensus of both the Houses.
  • Article 108 of the Constitution talks about a joint Parliament session.

Prorogation:

The termination of a session of Rajya Sabha by an order made by the President under article 85(2) (a) of the Constitution is called Prorogation. A prorogation puts an end to a session and not the Lok Sabha itself.

Dissolution:

Dissolution may take place either by end of the 5-year term of Lok Sabha or the end of term as extended by emergency or by an order of President as mentioned in article 85 (2).

Dissolution puts an end to the Lok Sabha and fresh elections must be held.

Adjournment:

Adjournment refers to postponing the further transaction of the business for a specified time. Adjournment terminates the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting.

Note:

Prorogation: Done by the President
Dissolution: Done by the President
Adjournment: Done by Presiding Officer of the House (Speaker/Deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha; Chairman/Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha)

Summary

Adjournment – terminates a sitting.
Prorogation – terminates a session.
Dissolution – terminates the life of a House.

Adjournment of Debate:

Adjournment of Debate refers to the adjournment on a motion adopted by the House, of the debate on a Motion or Resolution or Bill on which the House is then engaged until a future day or sine die as specified in the motion.

Adjournment sine die:

Adjournment sine die refers to the termination of a sitting of the House without any definite date being fixed for the next sitting.

Quorum

Article 100 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. For example, if the House has a total membership of 250, at least 25 members must be present for the House to proceed with its business.

If at any time during a meeting of a House there is no quorum, the Chairman has to either adjourn the House or suspend it until there is a quorum.

Language in Parliament

The Constitution has declared Hindi and English to be the languages for transacting business in the Parliament. However, the presiding officer can permit a member to address the House in his mother-tongue.

In both the Houses, arrangements are made for simultaneous translation. Though English was to be discontinued as a floor language after the expiration of fifteen years from the commencement of the Constitution (that is, in 1965), the Official Languages Act (1963) allowed English to be continued along with Hindi.

What is a lame duck session of Parliament?

  • It refers to the last session of the existing Lok Sabha after a new Lok Sabha has been elected. Those members of the existing Lok Sabha who could not get re-elected to the new Lok Sabha are called lame-ducks.

President’s Address:

President’s address is the speech delivered by the President of India to both Houses of Parliament assembled together at the-

  • Commencement of the first session after each general election to Lok Sabha
  • At the commencement of the first session of each year. Please note that the original constitution provided for a president’s speech at the beginning of every session. This was made the first session after an election, and the first session of a new year by Constitution 1st Amendment Act 1951.

Right of Ministers and Attorney-General to take part in proceedings

Article 88 says that every Minister and the Attorney-General of India shall have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, either House, any joint sitting of the Houses, and any committee of Parliament of which he may be named a member, but shall not by virtue of this article be entitled to vote.

a day in parliament

Question Hour

The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for this. During this time, the members ask questions and the ministers usually give answers. The questions are of three kinds, namely, starred, unstarred, and short notice.

Starred Question:

  • A starred question is asked by an MP and answered orally by the Minister-in-charge. MPs are allowed to ask one starred question each, in one sitting. Starred questions are submitted in advance (15 days) and only 20 questions are picked (through ballot) for oral answer on a day.
  • The questioning MP can thereafter ask up to two supplementary questions. Other MPs can then ask supplementary questions based on the Speaker’s discretion.

Un-starred Question:

  • An un-starred question receives a written reply from the Ministry. They are submitted 15 days in advance. A maximum of 230 un-starred questions is picked for a day.
  • An MP can submit ten questions on a day, of which he may ask a maximum of five. Out of the five, he may ask, only one may be a starred question.

Short Notice Question:

These relate to a matter of urgent public importance. They can be asked with less than 10 days’ notice. Like starred questions, short notice questions are answered orally followed by supplementary questions. These are admitted at the discretion of the Speaker. This is a rarely used procedure. In the 15th Lok Sabha, not a single short notice question was admitted.

Zero Hour

  • The hour immediately following the Question Hour is popularly known as the Zero Hour. This period is usually used to raise matters that are urgent and cannot wait for the notice period required under other procedures.
  • For raising matters during the Zero Hour, MPs give notice before 10 am to the Speaker on the day of the sitting. The notice must state the subject they wish to raise in the House. The Speaker decides whether to allow the matter to be raised. Short notice questions to are taken up during the Zero Hour.

Offices in the parliament

Articles 89 to 98 deal with the officers of the parliament. Notable points are here:

Chairman & Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha

  • Vice President of India is the ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha members only choose a Member of the Rajya Sabha as Deputy Chairman
  • The Deputy Chairman will vacate office if he/ she ceases to be a member of Rajya Sabha.
  • The Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha will resign by writing a resignation to Chairman
  • The deputy chairman can be removed by a majority of the Rajya Sabha members. A 14 days’ notice is required to be given.
  • If Vice President is not available, Deputy Chairman will discharge functions as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • If Chairman is also not available, a member appointed by the President will discharge the function.
  • The Chairman or Deputy Chairman will not preside while a resolution for his/ her removal from office is under consideration.
  • While a resolution for his/ her removal is under consideration, he/she shall be able to speak but not eligible to cast the “Casting Vote”.

Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha

  • Two members of Lok Sabha will be chosen as Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
  • The Speaker shall vacate the office if he/ she ceases to be a member of Lok Sabha.
  • The Speaker will write resignation to Deputy Speaker and Deputy Speaker will resign to the speaker.
  • Can be removed by the Lok Sabha members by the majority.
  • After the Lok Sabha gets dissolved, the Speaker will not immediately vacate the office but will continue till the first meeting after the next elections.
  • If the Speaker is NOT present, his duty will be carried out by Deputy Speaker.
  • If Deputy Speaker is also not present, a person appointed by President will discharge the duties.
  • The speaker or Deputy speaker will not preside the house, while a resolution for his/her removal from the office is under consideration.
  • The Speaker does not participate in the debates and discussions of the House. He even does not take part in the voting on bills. Although as a member he has the right to vote. In case of a tie over any bill, he can exercise his casting vote.
  • If a dispute arises over the question as to whether a bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision is made by the Speaker. Such a decision is final and cannot be challenged inside or outside the house.
  • While a resolution for his/ her removal is under consideration, he/she shall be able to speak but not eligible to cast the “Casting Vote”.
  • The salaries and allowances of the Chairman/ Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and Speaker/Deputy Speaker will be decided as per the law by parliament.
  • Each house of the parliament shall have a separate secretariat staff.
The following provisions ensure the independence and impartiality of the office of the Speaker:

He is provided with a security of tenure.

  • He can be removed only by a resolution passed by the Lok Sabha by an absolute majority (i.e. a majority of the total members of the House) and not by an ordinary majority (i.e. a majority of the members present and voting in the House). This motion of removal can be considered and discussed only when it has the support of at least 50 members.
  • His salaries and allowances are fixed by Parliament. They are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and thus are not subject to the annual vote of Parliament.
  • His work and conduct cannot be discussed and criticized in the Lok Sabha except on a substantive motion.
  • His powers of regulating procedure or conducting business or maintaining order in the House are not subject to the jurisdiction of any Court.
  • He cannot vote in the first instance. He can only exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie. This makes the position of the Speaker impartial.
  • He is given a very high position in the order of precedence. He is placed at seventh rank, along with the Chief Justice of India. This means he has a higher rank than all cabinet ministers, except the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.

Pro tem Speaker

  • 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 Speaker Pro Tem has all the powers of the Speaker. He presides over the first sitting of the newly-elected Lok Sabha. His main duty is to administer the oath to the new members. He also enables the House to elect the new Speaker.
  • 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. In absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker acts as Speaker, and in the absence of both a committee of six-member selected by the Speaker will act as Speaker according to their seniority.

Secretary General of Lok Sabha:

  • Secretary-General is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
  • He is answerable to ONLY Speaker and his action cannot be criticized in or out of Lok Sabha.
  • He remains in the office till the age of 60 years (retirement).
  • His functions are to provide a link between changing members and keeping the records.
  • He summons the members to attend the session of parliament on behalf of the President.
  • He authenticates the bill in absence of the Speaker.

Leader of the House

  • Leader of the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, is the Prime Minister by default if he is a member of the Lok Sabha. If the Prime Minister is not a member of the Lower House of Parliament, he can nominate another minister as the Leader of the House.
  • The Leader of the House is a Rajya Sabha member who is either a cabinet minister or another nominated minister. The Leader has a seat next to the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, in the front row.

Leader of the Opposition

  • The Leader of the Opposition is the politician who leads the official opposition in either House of the Parliament of India.
  • While the position also existed in the former Central Legislative Assembly of British India, and holders of it there included Motilal Nehru, it received statutory recognition through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 which defines the term “Leader of the Opposition” as that member of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha who, for the time being, is the Leader of that House of the Party in Opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognized, as such, by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • However, in order to get formal recognition, the concerned party must have at least 10% of the total strength of the House (55 seats in the Lok Sabha). If any party fails to get 10% seats in opposition, the House will not have recognized the leader of the opposition. A single party has to meet the 10% seat criteria, not an alliance.

Whip

  • The office of ‘whip’, on the other hand, is mentioned neither in the Constitution of India nor in the Rules of the House nor in a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of the parliamentary government.
  • In India, the concept of the whip was inherited from colonial British rule. Every major political party appoints a whip who is responsible for the party’s discipline and behaviors on the floor of the house.
  • Usually, he/she direct the party members to stick to the party’s stand on certain issues and direct them to vote as per the direction of senior party members.
  • However, there are some cases such as Indian presidential elections where whips cannot direct a Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) on whom to vote.

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