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Function and Power of the presiding officer of Lok Sabha


Since the Indian system of government follows the Westminster Model, the parliamentary proceedings of the country are headed by a presiding officer who is called a Speaker. The Lok Sabha or the Lower House of the People in India, which is the highest legislative body in the country, chooses its Speaker who presides over the day-to-day functioning of the House. Thus, the Speaker plays the crucial role of ensuring that the Lok Sabha carries forward its role of legislation peacefully, maintaining harmony in the Houses of Parliament and taking crucial procedural decisions of the House. The Speaker is thus, in every sense, considered the true guardian of the Indian Parliamentary democracy, holding the complete authority of the Lok Sabha.  Article 93 of the Constitution says that the House of the People (Lok Sabha) shall, as soon as may be, choose two members of the House to be respectively Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Speaker has one of the important power is to decide whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not and his decision on this question is final.

Constitutional Provision for the Speaker

The office of the Speaker occupies a pivotal position in our parliamentary democracy. It has been said of the office of the Speaker that while the members of Parliament represent the individual constituencies, the Speaker represents the full authority of the House itself. He/she (now the Speaker of Lok Sabha is Smt. Sumitra Mahajan) symbolises the dignity and power of the House over which he/she is presiding. Therefore, it is expected that the holder of this office of high dignity has to be one who can represent the House in all its manifestations.

The responsibility entrusted to the Speaker is so onerous that he/she cannot afford to overlook any aspect of parliamentary life. His/her actions come under close scrutiny in the House and are also widely reported in the mass media. With the televising of proceedings of Parliament, the small screen brings to millions of households in the country the day-to-day developments in the House making the Speaker’s task all the more important.

Even though the Speaker speaks rarely in the House, when he/she does, he speaks for the House as a whole. The Speaker is looked upon as the true guardian of the traditions of parliamentary democracy. His/her unique position is illustrated by the fact that she is placed very high in the Warrant of Precedence in our country, standing next only to the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister. In India, through the Constitution of the land, through the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and through the practices and conventions, adequate powers are vested in the office of the Speaker to help his/her in the smooth conduct of the parliamentary proceedings and for protecting the independence and impartiality of the office. The Constitution of India provides that the Speaker’s salary and allowances are not to be voted by Parliament and are to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Election and Tenure

The Speaker is elected by the Lok Sabha from amongst its members (as soon as may be, after its first sitting). Whenever the office of the Speaker falls vacant, the Lok Sabha elects another member to fill the vacancy. The date of election of the Speaker is fixed by the President. Usually, the Speaker remains in office during the life of the Lok Sabha.

Election of Speaker

In the Lok Sabha, the lower House of the Indian Parliament, both Presiding Officers namely the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are elected from among its members by a simple majority of members present and voting in the House. As such, no specific qualifications are prescribed for being elected the Speaker. The Constitution only requires that Speaker should be a member of the House.  But an understanding of the Constitution and the laws of the country and the rules of procedure and conventions of Parliament is considered a major asset for the holder of the office of the Speaker.

The election of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is an important event in the life of the House. One of the first acts of a newly constituted House is to elect the Speaker. Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected the Speaker. A healthy convention, however, has evolved over the years whereby the ruling party nominates its candidate after informal consultations with the Leaders of other Parties and Groups in the House. This convention ensures that once elected, the Speaker enjoys the respect of all sections of the House.

There are also instances when members not belonging to the ruling party or coalition were elected to the office of the Speaker.   Once a decision on the candidate is taken, her name is normally proposed by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. If more than one notice is received, these are entered in the order of receipt.

The Speaker pro term presides over the sitting in which the Speaker is elected, if it is a newly constituted House. If the election falls later in the life of a Lok Sabha the Deputy Speaker presides.

Eligibility Criteria of a Speaker

Since the Speaker is a Member of the Parliament, the eligibility criteria for the position are same as that of the other members in the House. They are as follows:

  • He/she must be a citizen of India.
  • He/she must not be less than 25 years of age.
  • He/she should not hold any office of profit under the Government of India, or the Government of any other state.
  • He/she should not be of unsound mind.

Vacation and resignation of Speaker

Generally, Speaker can hold the office till the life of the Lok Sabha, but, he/she may vacant, resign, and remove from the offices of Speaker according to the Article 94 of the Constitution.  A member holding office as Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of the People if he/she

  • shall vacate his office if he ceases to be a member of the House of the People
  • may at any time, by writing under his hand addressed, if such member is the Speaker, to the Deputy Speaker, and if such member is the Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker, resign his/her office
  • may be removed from his/her office by a resolution of the House of the People passed by a majority of all the then members of the House. But such resolution shall be moved unless at least fourteen days notice has been given of the intention to move the resolution.

When a resolution for the removal of the Speaker is under consideration of the House, he cannot preside at the sitting of the House, though he/she may be present. However, he/she can speak and take part in the proceedings of the House at such a time and vote in the first instance, though not in the case of an equality of votes. It should be noted here that, whenever the Lok Sabha is dissolved, the Speaker does not vacate his/her office and continues till the newly elected Lok Sabha meets.

Powers and Functions of the Speaker

The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha, and its representative. He/she is the guardian of powers and privileges of the members, the House as a whole and its committees. He/she is the principal spokesman of the House, and his/her decision in all Parliamentary matters is final. He/she is thus much more than merely the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha. In these capacities, he/she is vested with vast, varied and vital responsibilities and enjoys great honour, high dignity and supreme authority within the House. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha derives his/her powers and duties from three sources, that is, the Constitution of India, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha, and Parliamentary Conventions (residuary powers that are unwritten or unspecified in the Rules).

Altogether, he/she has the following powers and duties:

  • He/she maintains order and decorum in the House for conducting its business and regulating its proceedings. This is his/her primary responsibility and he/she has final power in this regard.
  • He/she adjourns the House or suspends the meeting in absence of a quorum.
  • He/she does not vote in the first instance. But he/she can exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie.
  • He/she presides over a joint setting of the two Houses of Parliament. Such a sitting is summoned by the President to settle a deadlock between the two Houses on a Bill.
  • He/she can allow a secret sitting of the House at the request of the Leader of the House. When the House sits in secret, no stranger can be present in the chamber, lobby or galleries except with the permission of the Speaker.
  • He/she decides whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not and his/her decision on this question is final. When a Money Bill is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and presented to the President for assent, the Speaker endorses on the Bill his/her certificate that it is a Money Bill.
  • He/she decides the questions of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha, arising on the ground of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the Speaker in this regard is subject to judicial review.
  • H/she acts as the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group of the Inter Parliamentary Union. He/she also acts as the ex-officio chairman of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in the country.
  • He/she appoints the chairman of all the parliamentary committees of the Lok Sabha and supervises their functioning. He/she himself is the chairman of the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee and the General Purpose Committee.

Regulating the Business of the House    

The final authority for adopting rules for regulating its procedure rests with each House, but a perusal of the rules of the Indian Parliament would indicate that the Presiding Officers in the two Houses are given vast powers by the rules. It is the Presiding Officer who decides the admissibility of a Question; it is he/she who decides the forms in which amendments may be moved to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address. With regard to moving amendments to a Bill, the permission of the Chair is required.

The Speaker is the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House, its Committees and members. It depends solely on the Speaker to refer any question of privilege to the Committee of Privileges for examination, investigation and report. It is through his/her that the decisions of the House are communicated to outside individuals and authorities. It is the Speaker who decides the form and manner in which the proceedings of the House is published. He/she also issues warrants to execute the orders of the House, wherever necessary, and delivers reprimands on behalf of the House.

The Speaker also has certain residuary powers under the Rules of Procedure. All matters which are not specifically provided under the rules and all questions relating to the working of the rules are regulated by him/her. In exercise of this power and under his/her inherent powers, the Speaker issues from time to time directions which are generally treated as sacrosanct as the Rules of Procedure.

Under the Constitution, the Speaker enjoys a special position insofar as certain matters pertaining to the relations between the two Houses of Parliament are concerned. He/she certifies Money Bills and decides what are Money matters by reason of the Lok Sabha’s overriding powers in financial matters are final.

It is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha who presides over joint sittings called in the event of disagreement between the two Houses on a legislative measure. As regards recognition of parliamentary parties it is the Speaker who lays down the necessary guidelines for such recognition. It is he/she who decides on granting recognition to the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Following the 52nd Constitution amendment, the Speaker is vested with the power relating to the disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha on grounds of defection.   The Speaker makes obituary references in the House, formal references to important national and international events and the valedictory address at the conclusion of every Session of the Lok Sabha and also when the term of the House expires. Though a member of the House, the Speaker does not vote in the House except on those rare occasions when there is a tie at the end of a decision. Till date, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha has not been called upon to exercise this unique casting vote.

Speaker and Inter-Parliamentary Relations

The Speaker has certain other functions to perform as the head of the Lok Sabha. He/she is the ex officio President of the Indian Parliamentary Group (IPG), set up in 1949, which functions as the National Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Main Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). In that capacity, members of various Indian Parliamentary Delegations going abroad are nominated by him/her after consulting the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Most often, the Speaker leads such Delegations. Besides, he/she is the Chairman of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India.

Administrative Role of the Speaker

The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat which functions under his/her ultimate control and direction. The Speaker’s authority over the Secretariat staff of the House, its precincts and its security arrangements is supreme. All strangers, visitors and press correspondents are subject to his/her discipline and orders and any breach of order may be punished by means of exclusion from the precincts of the Parliament House or stoppage of admission tickets to the galleries for definite or indefinite period, or in more serious cases, dealt with as a contempt or breach of privilege. No alternation or addition can be made in the Parliament House and no new structure can be erected in the Parliament Estate without the Speaker’s permission.

Conclusion 

The office of the Speaker in India is a living and dynamic institution which deals with the actual needs and problems of Parliament in the performance of its functions. The Speaker is the constitutional and ceremonial head of the House. He/she is the principal spokesperson of the House. It is in his/her that the responsibility of conducting the business of the House in a manner befitting the place of the institution in a representative democracy is invested. The founding fathers of our Constitution had recognised the importance of this office in our democratic set-up and it was this recognition that guided them in establishing this office as one of the prominent and dignified ones in the scheme of governance of the country.

Interesting Facts about Speakers of India

  • After dissolution of Lok Sabha, all its members have to vacant their position or seats but Speaker still as the speaker and being administrative head of the Secretariat of the Parliament.
  • His/her 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/her work and conduct cannot be discussed and criticised in the Lok Sabha except on a substantive motion.
  • He/she is given a very high position in the order of precedence. He/she is placed at seventh rank, along with the Chief Justice of India. This means, he/she has a higher rank than all cabinet ministers, except the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.
  • The first woman Speaker in the history of the Indian Parliament is Meira Kumar, who presided over the 15th Lok Sabha session beginning in 2009.
  • The first Speaker in India was G V Mavlankar, who presided over the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1956. He is known as the Father of Lok Sabha, for his immense contribution in redesigning the country’s parliamentary proceedings with intricate impartiality.
  • The only Speaker to have presided over the Parliament in two consecutive terms, for the full five-year periods was Balram Jakhar.
  • Speaker Rabi Ray is popularly called the Son of Soil, due to his immense straightforwardness and eye for detail in the workings of the Parliament.
  • One of the most eloquent Speakers in the history of the Indian Parliament to this day is, P.A. Sangma.
  • Somnath Chatterjeedid not follow the direction of his party CPI during confidence motion that is why he was removed from the party but kept being as the Speaker.

Speakers of Lok Sabha:

Lok Sabha Name of Speaker Tenure
First Lok Sabha Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar 5 May, 1952 – 27 February, 1956
M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar 8 March, 1956 –  10 May, 1957
Second Lok Sabha M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar 11 May, 1957 –  16 April, 1962
Third Lok Sabha Hukam Singh 17 April, 1962 –  16 March, 1967
Fourth Lok Sabha Neelam Sanjiva Reddy 17 March, 1967 –  19 July, 1969
Gurdial Singh Dhillon 8 August, 1969 –  19 March, 1971
Fifth Lok Sabha Gurdial Singh Dhillon 22 March, 1971 –  1 December, 1975
Bali Ram Bhagat 5 January, 1976 –  25 March, 1977
Sixth Lok Sabha Neelam Sanjiva Reddy 26 March, 1977 –  13 July, 1977
K. S. Hegde 21 July, 1977 –  21 January, 1980
Seventh Lok Sabha Bal Ram Jakhar 22 January, 1980 –  15 January, 1985
Eighth Lok Sabha    Bal Ram Jakhar 16 January, 1985 –  18 December, 1989
Ninth Lok Sabha Ravi Ray 19 December, 1989 –  9 July, 1991
Tenth Lok Sabha Shivraj V. Patil 10 July, 1991 –  22 May, 1996
Eleventh Lok Sabha P. A. Sangma 23 May, 1996 –  23 March, 1998 (FN)
Twelfth Lok Sabha G. M. C. Balayogi 24 March, 1998 –  20 October, 1999 (FN)
Thirteenth Lok Sabha G. M. C. Balayogi 22 October, 1999 –  3 March, 2002
Manohar Joshi 10 May, 2002 –  4 June, 2004
Fourteenth Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee 4 June, 2004 –  31 May, 2009
Fifteen Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar 3 June, 2009 –  4 June,2014
Sixteenth Lok Sabha Smt.Sumitra Mahajan 5 June 2014 – Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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