CBSE Notes | Class 11 | Political Science | Indian Constitution at Work
Chapter 5 - The Legislature
The chapter introduces students to the legislative aspects of democracy. It enlists various legislative functions of the two houses of the Indian parliament: Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The chapter also highlights the debates and discussions that happen during the various hours in the parliament.
Why do we need a Parliament?
The legislature is not merely a law-making body. It is the centre of all democratic political processes. It is packed with action; walkouts, protests, demonstrations, unanimity, concern and co-operation. Indeed, a genuine democracy is inconceivable without a representative, efficient and effective legislature.
The legislature also helps people in holding the representatives accountable and is the very basis of representative democracy.
Why do we need two houses of Parliament?
The term Parliament refers to the national legislature. The legislature of the States is described as the State legislature. The Parliament in India has two houses. Though, it is called a bicameral legislature.
The two houses of the Indian Parliament are:
The Council of States / the Rajya Sabha
The House of the People / the Lok Sabha
The Constitution has given the States the option of establishing either a unicameral or bicameral legislature.
States Having Bicameral legislature:
Jammu and Kashmir
What are the advantages of the Bicameral Legislature?
Countries with large size and much diversity usually prefer to have two houses of the national legislature to give representation to all sections in the society and to give representation to all geographical regions or parts of the country. A bicameral legislature makes it possible to have every decision reconsidered. Every decision taken by one house goes to the other house for its decision.
This means that every bill and policy would be discussed twice. This ensures a double check on every matter.
Rajya Sabha represents the state of India, it is an indirectly elected body. Residents of the State elect members to State Legislative Assembly. The elected members of the State Legislative Assembly in turn elect the members of Rajya Sabha.
What are the principles of representation?
Equal representation to all the parts of the country irrespective of their size or population is called symmetrical representation.
Parts of the country may be given representation according to their population means that regions or parts having larger populations would have more representatives in the second chamber than regions having less population.
States with larger populations get more representatives than States with smaller populations: The following are some features associated with the Rajya Sabha.
Members are elected for a term of six years
Members can be re-elected.
All members of the Rajya Sabha do not complete their terms at the same time.
Every two years, one-third of members of the Rajya Sabha complete their term and elections are held for those one-third seats only.
The Rajya Sabha is never fully dissolved.
It is called the ‘Permanent House of the Parliament.
Rajya Sabha also has twelve nominated members.
The members are nominated by the President
The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is the Indian bicameral legislature's lower house. The people elect the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies directly. The entire country (or state, in the case of the State Legislative Assembly) is divided into territorial constituencies of the roughly equal population for election purposes.
One representative is elected from each constituency through universal adult suffrage, in which each individual's vote is worth the same. There are currently 543 constituencies.
What Functions does the parliament perform?
Legislative Function: The Parliament enacts and approves legislation for the country. The main task of the parliament is to draft the bill, which is done by the bureaucracy under the supervision of the ministers.
Substance No major bill is introduced in Parliament without the Cabinet's approval, even the timing of the bill. Bills introduced by non-ministers have no chance of passing without the support of the government.
These debates are at the core of democratic decision-making.
Control of Executive and ensuring its accountability: To ensure that the executive does not overstep its authority and remains responsible to the people who have elected them.
Financial Function: In a democracy, the legislature controls taxation and government spending. Any new tax proposed by the Indian government must be approved by the Lok Sabha. Parliament's financial powers include funding the government's programmes. The government must account to the legislature for funds spent and resources sought.
The legislature also checks government spending. The budget and annual financial statements do this.
Representation: Parliament represents the divergent views of members from different regional, social, economic, religious groups of different parts of the country.
Debating Function: The Parliament is the highest forum of debate in the country it has no limitations on its powers of discussion and functions. The members are free to speak on any matter without fear or any restrictions. This makes it possible for the Parliament to analyse any or every issue that faces the nation.
Constituent Function: The Parliament has the power of discussing and enacting changes to the Constitution. The constituent powers of both the houses are similar. All constitutional amendments have to be approved by a special majority of both Houses.
Electoral functions: The Parliament also performs some electoral functions as it plays a major role in the election of the President and the Vice President of India.
Judicial functions: The judicial functions of the Parliament include considering the proposals for the removal of:
Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court.
Powers of The Lok Sabha
The Lower house makes Lawson matters included in Union List and Concurrent List. It can also hold the power to introduce and enact money and non-money bills.
The Lok Sabha approves proposals for taxation, budgets and annual financial statements and also controls the executive by asking questions, supplementary questions, resolutions and motions and through a no-confidence motion.
One of the major power of the house is to make constitutional amendments and approves the proclamation of emergency. It also elects the President and the Vice President and plays an important role in the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court.
The Lok Sabha establishes committees and commissions and considers their reports.
Powers of The Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha Considers and approves non-money bills and suggests amendments to money bills. This House also plays an important role in the approval of the constitutional amendments. Rajya Sabha also exercises control over the executive by asking questions, introducing motions and resolutions. it also participates in the election and the removal of the President, Vice President & the judges of the Supreme Court and High Court.
It can alone initiate the procedure for removal of Vice President and can give the Union parliament power to make laws on matters included in the State list.
What are the special Powers of the Rajya Sabha?
The Rajya Sabha is an institutional mechanism to provide representation to the States. Its purpose is to protect the powers of the States. Any matter that affects the States must be referred to it for its consent and approval.
If the Union Parliament wishes to remove a matter from the State list (over which only the State Legislature can make law) to either the Union List or Concurrent List in the interest of the nation, the approval of the Rajya Sabha is necessary.
This provision adds to the strength of the Rajya Sabha.
The experience shows that the members of the Rajya Sabha represent their parties more than they represent their States.
How Does The Parliament Make Laws?
A bill is a draft of the proposed law, there can be different types of the bill:
Private Member’s Bill
When a non-minister proposes a bill, it is called a private member‘s Bill. A bill proposed by a minister is described as Government Bill.
The legislative procedure is identical in both the Houses of Parliament. Every bill has to pass through the same stages in each House.
A bill is a proposal for legislation and it becomes an act or law when duly enacted.
It is introduced in the Parliament by a minister.
It reflects the policy of the government (Ruling Party). It has a greater chance to be approved by the parliament.
It is introduced by any member of the parliament other than a minister.
It reflects the stand of opposition party on public matters.
It has less chance to be approved by the parliament.
The bills introduced in the Parliament can also be classified into four categories:
Ordinary bills: The Bills are concerned with any matter other than financial subjects.
Money bills: The Bills are concerned with financial matters like taxation, public expenditure, etc.
Financial bills: The Bills are concerned with financial matters (but are different from money bills).
Constitution amendment bills: The bills which are concerned with the amendment of the provisions of the Constitution.
The Constitution has laid down separate procedures for the enactment of all four types of bills.
The procedures concerning ordinary bills, money bills and financial bills are explained here.
Every ordinary bill has to pass through the following five stages in the Parliament:
First, Second & Third Reading: Stage of general discussion, committee Stage, Consideration Stage.
Bill goes to the Second House: The bill passes through all the three stages again, that is, first reading, second reading and third reading.
There are four alternatives before this House:
It may pass the bill as sent by the first house (without amendments).
It may pass the bill with amendments and return it to the first house for re-consideration.
It may reject the bill altogether.
It may not take any decision and keep the bills pending.
“Article 110” of the constitution deals with the definition of money bills
It states that a bill is deemed to be a money bill if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax.
The regulation of the borrowing of money by the Union government.
The custody of the Consolidated Fund of India or the contingency fund of India, the payment of money into or the withdrawal of money from any such fund.
The appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
Declaration of any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or increasing the amount of any such expenditure.
The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money, or the audit of the accounts of the Union or a state.
However, a bill is not to be deemed to be a money bill by reason only that it provides for:
If the second House passes the bill without any amendments or the first House accepts the amendments suggested by the second House, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses and the same is sent to the president for his assent.
Deadlock: On the other hand, if the "First House” rejects the amendments suggested by the second House or the second House rejects the bill altogether or the second House does not take any action for a period of “Six Months”, it is considered as a deadlock.
Joint Session: The president can summon a joint sitting of the two Houses to resolve a deadlock. If the majority of the members present and voting in the joint sitting approves the bill, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.
President’s approval: the bill is sent to the President for his consent. They can only become a law once it is approved by the President.
The president can also use his discretionary powers to deal with the bill. There are some alternatives to this:
He may give assent to the bill or may withhold his assent to the bill.
May send the bill back to the house for Re-consideration.
May also use “Pocket/Suspensive Veto”.
If the president gives his assent to the bill, the bill becomes an act or Law. If the President withholds his assent to the bill, it ends and does not become an act.
If the President returns the bill for reconsideration and if it is passed by both the Houses again with or without amendments and presented to the President for his assent, the president must give his assent to the bill or may use Pocket Veto.
As per Article 110 of the Constitution of India, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill. The Financial Bills are of Three Kinds:
Money Bills – Article 110
Financial Bill(i) – Article 117(1)
Financial Bill (ii) – Article 117(3)
The Money bills are simply a species of financial bills. Hence, all money bills are financial bills but all financial bills are not money bills.
The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister. It is an Umbrella Legislation and encompasses all amendments required in various laws on tax, following the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
The imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or the demand or payment of fees for licenses or fees for services rendered; or the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax by any local authority or body for local purposes.
If there is any doubt about whether a bill is a money bill or not, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha makes the final decision. In this case, no court of law, neither House of Parliament, nor even the president can overturn his decision. The Speaker endorses a money bill when it is sent to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and then presented to the president for assent.
A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, and only on the president's recommendation.
Every bill of this nature is considered a government bill, and it can only be introduced by a minister.
In the case of a money bill, the Rajya Sabha has limited powers. A money bill cannot be rejected or amended. Its only capability is to make recommendations. It has 14 days to return the bill to the Lok Sabha, with or without recommendations.
The Lok Sabha can accept or reject all or any of Rajya Sabha's recommendations. The bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha if the Rajya Sabha does not return it to the Lok Sabha within 14 days. In the case of a money bill, the Lok Sabha has more authority than the Rajya Sabha.
In the case of a regular bill, however, both Houses have equal authority. Finally, when a money bill is presented to the president, he has the option of giving his assent or withholding his assent, but he cannot return the bill to the Houses for reconsideration.
With his prior permission, the president gives his assent to a money bill as it is introduced in Parliament.
Financial Bills (I)
The bill contains all the matters mentioned in Article 110 also include matters of general Legislation. It is a bill that contains a borrowing clause but does not exclusively deal with borrowing.
In two respects, a financial bill (I) is similar to a money bill:
Both of them can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha and not in the Rajya Sabha.
Both of them can be introduced only on the recommendation of the President.
A financial bill (I) is governed by the same legislative procedure applicable to an ordinary bill. It can be either rejected or amended by the Rajya Sabha (except that an amendment other than for reduction or abolition of a tax cannot be moved in either House without the recommendation of the president).
In case of a disagreement between the two Houses over such a bill, the president can summon a joint sitting of the two Houses to resolve the deadlock.
The President can summon both the Houses to meet in a joint sitting to deliberate and vote on the bill. The provision of joint sitting applies to ordinary bills or financial bills only and not to money bills or Constitutional amendment bills.
In the case of a money bill, the Lok Sabha has overriding powers, while a Constitutional amendment bill must be passed by each House separately. In reckoning the period of six months, no account can be taken of any period during which the other House (to which the bill has been sent) is prorogued or adjourned for more than four consecutive days.
If the bill (under dispute) has already lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, no joint sitting can be summoned. The joint sitting can be held in the Lok Sabha is dissolved after the President has notified his intention to summon such a sitting (as the bill does not lapse in this case).
After the President notifies his intention to summon a joint sitting of the two Houses, none of the Houses can proceed further with the bill.
The Speaker of Lok Sabha presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses and the Deputy Speaker, in his absence. If the Deputy Speaker is also absent from a joint sitting, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha presides.
Financial Bills (II)
A financial bill (II) contains provisions involving expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India but does not include any of the matters mentioned in Article 110.
It is treated as an ordinary bill and in all respects, it is governed by the same legislative procedure which applies to an ordinary bill.
The only special feature of this bill is that it cannot be passed by either House of Parliament unless the President has recommended to that House the consideration of the bill. It can be introduced in either House of Parliament and the recommendation of the President is not necessary for its introduction.
It can be either rejected or amended by either House of Parliament.
Joint Sitting of Two Houses
Joint sitting is extraordinary machinery provided by the Constitution to resolve a deadlock between the two Houses over the passage of a bill.
A deadlock is deemed to have taken place under any one of the following three situations after a bill has been passed by one House and transmitted to the other House:
If the bill is rejected by the other House.
If the Houses have finally disagreed as to the amendments to be made in the bill.
If more than six months have elapsed from the date of the receipt of the bill by the other House without the bill being passed by it.
The President has the authority to call a joint session of both Houses to discuss and vote on the bill. Joint sitting is only applicable to ordinary or financial bills, not to money bills or Constitutional amendment bills.
A money bill has overriding powers in the Lok Sabha, whereas a Constitutional amendment bill must be passed by each House separately.
No account can be taken of any period during which the other House (to which the bill has been sent) is prorogued or adjourned for more than four consecutive days when calculating the six-month period.
No joint sitting can be called if the bill (in dispute) has already lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
After the President has notified his intention to summon such a sitting, the Lok Sabha can be dissolved for a joint sitting (as the bill does not lapse in this case).
None of the Houses can move forward with the bill after the President announces his intention to call a joint session of the two Houses.
In his absence, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses, which is presided over by the Deputy Speaker.
If both the Deputy Speaker and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha are absent from a joint sitting, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha preside.
If he is also not present, the meeting is presided over by someone chosen by the members present at the joint sitting. Because he is not a member of either House of Parliament, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha does not preside over a joint sitting.
The Constitution has specified that at a joint sitting, new amendments to the bill cannot be proposed except in two cases:
Those amendments have caused final disagreement between the Houses.
Those amendments might have become necessary due to the delay in the passage of the bill.
Instruments Of Parliamentary Control
The legislature in the parliamentary system ensures executive accountability at various stages:
Implementation of law policy
The legislature does this through the use of a variety of devices:
Deliberation and discussion
Approval or Refusal of laws
No confidence motion etc.
Deliberation and Discussion
During the law-making process, members of the legislature get an opportunity to deliberate on the policy direction of the executive and how policies are implemented. The control may also be exercised during the general discussions in the House.
Question Hour: It is held every day during the sessions of Parliament, where Ministers have to respond to searching questions raised by the members.
Zero Hour: Here members are free to raise any matter that they think is important (though the ministers are not bound to reply), half-an-hour discussion on matters of public importance, adjournment motion etc. are some instruments of exercising control.
Perhaps the question hour is the most effective method of keeping vigil on the executive and the administrative agencies of the government.
Members of Parliament have shown great interest in question hours and maximum attendance is recorded during this time. Most of the questions aimed at eliciting information from the government on issues of public interest such as price rise, availability of food grains, atrocities on weaker sections of the society, riots, black-marketing etc.
This allows the members to criticise the government, and represent the problems of their constituencies. The discussions during the question hour are so heated that it is not uncommon to see members raise their voices, walk to the well of the house or walk out in protest to make their point.
This results in a considerable loss of legislative time. At the same time, we must remember that many of these actions are political techniques to gain concessions from the government and in the process force executive accountability.
Approval and Ratification of laws
Parliamentary control is also exercised through its power of ratification. A bill can become a law only with the approval of the Parliament. A government that has the support of a disciplined majority may not find it difficult to get the approval of the Legislature.
Such approvals, however, cannot be taken for granted. They are the products of intense bargaining and negotiations amongst the members of the ruling party or coalition of parties and even government and opposition.
If the government has the majority in Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha, as has happened during the Janata Party rule in 1977 and N.D.A rule in 2000, the government will be forced to make substantial concessions to gain the approval of both the Houses. Many bills, such as the Lok Pal Bill have failed enactment, Prevention of Terrorism bill (2002) was rejected by the Rajya Sabha.
As mentioned earlier, financial resources to implement the programmes of the government are granted through the budget. Preparation and presentation of the budget for the approval of the legislature is a constitutional obligation of the government. This obligation allows the legislature to exercise control over the purse strings of the government.
The legislature may refuse to grant resources to the government. This seldom happens because the government ordinarily enjoys the support of the majority in the parliamentary system.
Nevertheless, before granting money the Lok Sabha can discuss the reasons for which the government requires money. It can enquire into cases of misuse of funds based on the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Public Accounts committees. But the legislative control is not only aimed at financial propriety.
The legislature is concerned about the policies of the government that are reflected in the budget. Through financial control, the legislature controls the policy of the government.
What is No-Confidence Motion?
The no-confidence motion is the Parliament's most highly effective tool for ensuring executive accountability. The House cannot dismiss the government if its party or coalition has a majority in the Lok Sabha.
Many governments have had to resign since 1989 due to a lack of confidence in the house. Each of these governments lost the confidence of the Lok Sabha by failing to maintain coalition support.
Assuring a more responsive government requires effective legislative control. To achieve this, the House must have adequate time, members must be interested in discussion and participate effectively, and both the government and the opposition must be willing to compromise.
The number of Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies sessions and debate time has decreased over the last two decades. In the absence of a quorum, opposition members boycott sessions, denying the house the power to control the executive through debate.
How does the Parliament regulate itself?
It is through debates that the parliament performs all its vital functions. Such discussions must be meaningful and orderly so that the functions of the Parliament are carried out smoothly and its dignity is intact.
The presiding officer of the legislature is the final authority in matters of regulating the business of the legislature.
Speaker in case of Lok Sabha and Chairman i.e. Vice-President in case of Rajya Sabha.
Anti-Defection Law: The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. As most of the members of the legislatures are elected on the ticket of some political party.
What would happen if they decide to leave the party after getting elected?
Finally, there was an agreement among the parties that a legislator who is elected on one party‘s ticket must be restricted from defecting to another party.
An amendment to the Constitution was made (52nd Amendment Act) in 1985. This is known as the anti-defection amendment. It has also been subsequently modified by the 91st amendment.
The presiding officer of the House is the authority who takes final decisions on all such cases.
What is Defection?
If a member remains absent in the House when asked by the party leadership to remain present or votes against the instructions of the party or voluntarily leaves the membership of the party, it is deemed as defection.