In this article, Mayank Vats discusses How does the Indian Parliament function.
An Outlook of the Indian Parliament
- The parliament of India is unquestionably the articulation of the trust and confidence that the people of India have in the essence of democracy. These are nothing but the involvement and contribution of the people in the decision-making method and government by concurrence. The Parliament in our framework has colossal powers for the reason that it is the representative of the people of India collectively. The way election for parliament is conducted is not very different from the way it is done for the state legislature.
- As per the provision of Article 79 of the Constitution of India, the council of the Parliament is comprised of the President and two Houses are known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
- Article 74(1) of the Constitution has the provision which states that there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its chief to help and assist the President, who is expected to exercise his/her functions according to the advice of the council of ministers and the Prime Minister. The true executive power is therefore vested in the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as the head.
- The Parliament is formed of two houses namely Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha which are formulated with Members of Parliament, who come up with progressive bills and make intensifying laws, though many would argue that this is a theoretical and ideal role of the Parliament of India.
- The Lok Sabha which is the lower house of the Parliament of India and also the house of people is usually elected once every five years and the election for the same is known as the “The General Elections” The country is allocated into many constituencies based upon the population of all the areas of the country. Each of these constituencies elects a representative who would be representing all the people of the respective constituency on the floor of the Parliament. The candidates who go on to fight the elections generally belong to different political parties. After winning the election successfully the candidates get designated as Members of Parliament or the MPs. These MPs collectively form the Parliament of India.
- The Rajya Sabha works mainly as the council of the states of India in the Parliament. The Rajya Sabha can also start legislation and a bill which is passed by the Lok Sabha is required to be passed by the Rajya Sabha in order to be considered as a law.
- Rajya Sabha has an important role in altering and reviewing (if they are needed) the legislation passed by the Lok Sabha. The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of various states who are known as Members of Legislative Assembly. In total there are 245 members in the Rajya Sabha in which there are 233 elected members plus 12 members who are nominated by the President of India.
- Once the election for the selection of the representatives of the people of India is over and the Members of Parliament are selected, the parliament goes on to get engaged in the performance of some important and significant functions which include making of laws and introduction of required amendments through bills and ordinances.
- The Parliament tends to make sure that the bureaucracy of the central government works properly. The parliament of India also allocates the financial resources by formulating the budget of the central government and keeping a track on it.
How are the Members of the Parliament Elected
The members of the parliament are elected in different ways. There are two houses of the parliament and the election procedure for both of them are different.
It is the upper house of the Parliament. It has not more than 250 members and they are elected by the people indirectly as they are elected by the Legislative Assemblies of the various states. Every state is allotted a number of members and there should be no member below the age of thirty years. Twelve members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the President. These twelve people are generally the ones who have a distinction in the fields of literature, art, science and social service. Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution but one-third of its members retire every two years.
Lok Sabha means that people’s union, which itself signifies that it is a body of representatives of the people. Its members are directly elected, normally once in every five years by the adult population who are eligible to vote. The minimum qualifying age for membership of the house is twenty-five years and the present number of people in the Lok Sabha is 543+2 (who are nominated by the President of India).
How the Government is formed
- The Parliament in India is composed of three vital components which are the President, the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. Once the Lok Sabha elections get over, a thorough list is formed which conveys how many MPs are from each political party.
- For a political party to form the government, they must have a majority of elected MPs. Since there are 543 elected (plus 2 nominated) members in Lok Sabha, to have a majority a party should have at least half the number which means they must have 272 members or more.
- The Opposition in Parliament is constituted by all the political parties which stand against the party/parties which form(s) the government. The party with the largest number of MPs or the party with the maximum strength is called the Opposition party.
- One of the most crucial tasks of the Lok Sabha is to decide on the executive of our country. The executive is a category of people who work collectively to execute the laws passed by the Parliament.
- The Prime Minister of India is the head of the ruling party in the Lok Sabha as well as the executive. Out of the Members of Parliament who support and stand in the favor of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister selects the council of ministers to work with him/her to execute the policies and governance. After being appointed as ministers, they take charge of different ministries or areas of functioning of the government such as defense, education, health, finance, etc.
Powers of the Indian Parliament
Parliament can Advise, Direct and Communicate to the Government
When the parliament is in session, it begins with a question hour. The question hour is a salient procedure via which MPs can extract information about the functioning of the government. This is a very crucial mode through which the Parliament gets to have supervision over the executive. By asking questions the government is warned about its flaws and imperfections and also becomes aware of the way of thinking of the people through their representatives in the Parliament which are the Members of the Parliament. Asking questions of the government is a crucial task for every MP. The Opposition parties also play an important role in the proper functioning of the democracy. They highlight loopholes in various programmes and policies of the government and deploy well-liked support for their own policies.
Legislative Functions of the Parliament
- The foremost work which the Parliament gets engaged in is to make rules and regulations for good governance of the country. It possesses exclusive powers to make laws.
- The constitution also provides certain powers to the parliament to make laws on the subjects enumerated in the State list under some irregular circumstances which include situations
- When Rajya Sabha passes a resolution to that effect,
- when a proclamation of national emergency is in effect,
- when two or more states make a collective appeal to the parliament,
- when it is essential to give effect to international conventions, agreements, and treaties,
- when President’s Rule is in the performance in the state.
- Every single ordinance issued by the president must be endorsed by the Parliament within the time period of a month and a half after its reassembly. An ordinance becomes nonfunctional if it is not approved by the Parliament within the said time period.
- The Parliament of India forms and passes laws on all subjects which are enlisted on the Union List. It can establish laws on subjects listed under the Concurrent List as well. In cases where there is any dispute or overlapping in the provisions which are existent in the Union and State enactment, the Union law succeeds. In cases when an emergency has been proclaimed, the Parliament of India can also pass laws on subjects that come under the bracket of the State List.
Executive Functions of the Parliament
The Parliament of India performs supervision over the Executive through question-hour, zero hours, half-an-hour discussion, short duration, calling attention motion, censure motion and contrasting discussions. In addition, it also supervises the movements and actions of the Executive with the aid of committees like committee on government assurance, the committee on subordinate legislation, the committee on petitions, etc. The Lok Sabha as well can indicate the need of confidence in the government in some observable ways such as by not passing motion of thanks on the President’s inaugural address, by dismissing and declining the money bill, by passing a censure motion or an adjournment motion, by outvoting the government on an imperative issue or by passing a cut motion.
Financial Functions of the Parliament
The parliament possesses powers over the control of the financial matters. It operates in two stages, namely the “budgetary control” which means that the parliament would have control before the appropriation of grants through the enactment of the budget and “post-budgetary control” which means that the government would exercise control after the appropriation of grants through the three financial committees. The Parliament of India has some exclusive powers to provide sources and ways via which revenue has to be raised for public services. For that, it imposes taxes and also safeguards that the money authorized for expenditure to different departments of the government has been spent on the endorsed aspirations.
Legislative Functions of the Parliament
The Parliament comes up with an act of amending the constitution through three modes which are:
(i) By simple majority
(ii) By special majority; and
(iii) By special majority with the assent of half of all the state legislatures.
The Parliament has the power to amend any provision of the constitution except the ‘basic features’ of the Constitution. This was prevailed by the Apex Court of India in the well-known case of Kesavananda Bharati Case(1973) and stated again strongly in the Minerva Mills case(1980).
Judicial Functions of the Parliament of India
The Parliament is endowed with some competence of the utmost importance to perform certain judicial functions. These powers of performing the judicial functions enable the parliament to have a power of impeaching the President of India for acting against the provisions or not acting in accordance with the Constitution of India. The Parliament also holds the power to detach the Vice-President from his office for not performing his/her duties in accordance with the constitution of India. The Parliament of India can recommend the removal of judges (including Chief Justice of India, Chief Justice of High courts) Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General to the President. In addition, the Parliament of India also has the power to mete out punishment to its members or outsiders for the breach of its privileges or its contempt.
Electoral Functions of the Parliament of India
The Parliament of India participates in the elections of the President and Vice President of India. All the Members of the Parliament goes on to vote for the election of the President and the Vice President of India. The Lok Sabha which is also known as the house of the people and the lower house of the Indian Parliament elects its speaker and Deputy Speaker and the Rajya Sabha which is also the council of states and the upper house of the Indian Parliament elects its Deputy Chairman.
The Essential Functions of the Parliament of India
There are many other salient functions of the Parliament of India such as the following:
- Parliament of India serves as the highest deliberative body in the nation.
- It engages in the discussion of varied issues having national and international significance.
- The Indian Parliament gives assent to all the three kinds of Emergency which are National Emergency, State Emergency and Financial Emergency which are proclaimed by the President of India.
- The Parliament can also make or remove the state legislative councils on the advice of the concerned state legislative assembly.
- The Parliament also performs the function of increasing or decreasing the area, alter the boundaries or rename the states of Union of India.
- The Parliament of India is also responsible for regulating the jurisdiction and organization of the High Courts and Supreme Court of India and also owns the power of establishing one common high court for two or more states of India.
- The system of the Parliament of India puts together the legislative and the executive organs of the state as much as the executive power is exercised by a group of Members of the Legislature who control a majority in the Lok Sabha.
- To come up in a more specified manner the government functions through different ministries under the control of different Ministers. The Indian Parliament has provisions for the Ministers and considers them accountable to the elected representatives of the people. The Ministers could be Member of either of the two Houses of the Parliament. The true implementation of the policies of the government as determined by the Parliament is carried out by the bureaucracy supervised by a Secretary of the Department.
- The Parliament has provisions for the forum by way of which it is shielded that the Cabinet stays in power only as long as it possesses majority support in the Lok Sabha which consists elected representatives of the people. It is one of the most vital and essential duties of the Parliament to bring about consultations, deliberations and reproving analysis of the functions of the government departments.
- The discussions safeguards that the flaws in terms of performance are brought to notice of the Ministers and through them the collective executive machinery functions in a good manner.
- The existence of opposition is also necessary as it certainly ensures that the entire population of the country gets to know about the other substitute and possible thoughts.
- The Indian Parliament is the strongest organ as far as the information about the performance of the duties and tasks of the government is concerned. The information presented in the Houses is reliable and dependent and it is obligatory for the ministers to provide information on affairs concerning government when so wanted and preferred by the members.
- The power to amend the Constitution vests with the Parliament. It is essential for the constitutional amendments to be passed by each house by a majority of the total membership and by the two-thirds majority of members present in voting as well.
- In some cases, amendments need ratification from half of the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
- The Parliament of India can as well penalize a person for defamation or contempt of the House.
- The Indian Parliament also possesses a power to form new states or make changes in the boundaries of the states which are in existence by legislation.
When we talk about the parliamentary procedures, we must also take into consideration that the parliament is divided into two major bodies, they are Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Apart from these two houses we also have President as the head assisted by the Prime Minister and his council of ministers. Let us discuss the procedures in detail. The functioning of the Rajya Sabha is divided into majorly pre-lunch and post-lunch sessions which again have two parts each. The pre-lunch session includes the Zero Hour and the question hour while the post-lunch session includes the Debates and the Legislative business meetings which includes all kinds of discussions relating to the national and the state needs.
- The Zero Hour- The question that arises is that what is zero hour. The answer to this is that the Zero hour is the hour in which the most important and urgent matters are raised and addressed. The MPs have to give notice before 10 am to the chairman on the day of the sitting about such a question that needs to be raised. The notice that is given by the MP should also state the subject and the urgency to be raised in the zero hours. After this, the Chairman decides whether to allow the matter to be raised or not.
- The Question Hour- Now that we have understood what the zero hour is, let us take into look what the question hour is all about. The question hour is the transparency technique of the parliamentarians. This question hour is from 12 pm to 1 and it is used to hold the government accountable for their actions. Everything relating to the policies, and the other details have to be put up in this hour so that there remains the essence of democracy while the policies are framed and also remains the accountability and the transparency and accountability among the members of the parliament.
- Debates- This part of the procedure and the functioning of the parliament is the essence of the parliament functioning. The intellectual phase of the parliamentarians begins here at this stage. The parliamentarians debate regarding the policies to be made for the future prospects and the ongoing policies.
- Types of Debates- In the post-lunch session, there are types of debates that take place such as the short-term discussions, half an hour discussions and the special mention discussions and the motions afterwards are the key to the Indian Parliament.
- Legislation- Legislation is an important part of the Parliamentarians and Legislations are the reason for the law being in force. This is also an important part of the parliamentary function.
- The Law-Making Process- all the bills and the ordinances will be formed and discussed in the house of the parliament and once the bills are approved by both the houses, the act is formed and then the law comes into being.
- The Calling Attention means that when the member of the parliament feels that another member needs an urgent attention to a matter concerning the nation it can call upon the member with the special feature so introduced in the procedures of the Parliament.
Sessions of the Parliament
There are different sessions in the parliament. The parliament has three sessions in a year. They are as follows:-
- Budget Session
- Monsoon session
- Winter Session
It is during these sessions that the parliament meets and decides on various issues. On an average, the Parliament meets for eighty-five to one hundred and five days in a year. However, the parliamentary committees meet throughout the year.
Special Powers of the Parliament
When we talk about the powers of the parliament, we should definitely take into consideration the division of the parliament into Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and the President.
- Special Powers of the Lok Sabha- The Lok Sabha enjoys a lot of special powers which we might not even be aware of. The responsibility with the collective note is a thing to be considered and the Lok Sabha enjoys special powers with respect to the “Collective Responsibility” of the government in the financial matters. All the financial bills and the money bills are passed by the Lok Sabha and not the Rajya Sabha. The Indian Constitution provides that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha and the power to control the finances also lies with the Lok Sabha.
- Special Powers of the Rajya Sabha- the special powers to the Rajya Sabha include that the Rajya Sabha is allowed to make law on any subject if the Parliament agrees with not less than a two-third majority that the nation needs a law on that particular subject as stated under Article 249 of the Indian Constitution. Also, under article 312 of the Indian Constitution, the Rajya Sabha with not less than two-thirds majority present and voting, can create an All India Service if it believes it to be an urgent need. The Rajya Sabha enjoys the benefit of a doubt in case of the proclamation of emergency and it has the power to proclaim it.
- The Indian State and the Public Institutions of India unquestionably need wide-ranging ameliorates, however, the Indian Parliament is facing an even more unnerving challenge. The Parliament is gradually becoming a little fruitless in providing supervision over the executive branch of the government.
- We are well aware that the inaccurate performance of the legislative branch of government is always probable to be greatly politicized. Parliament is arguably a political entity that represents brokers deals, constituent interests and advocates views in an adherent way.
- Nevertheless, even relative to these finite suppositions, one would anticipate the miscalculated function to be more powerful in an age where there are extensive disappointment and dissatisfaction with government and resource shortage is critical rather than the converse.
- Additionally, there is an indefinite polarity between the tangled desires that contemporary legislation places upon Members of the Parliament on the one hand, and their limit and slant for going to that legislation on the other.
- Furthermore, the abundance of political parties in Parliament, the majority of which are institutionally powerless, has generously expanded the obstructions to aggregate activity. While parliamentary democracy stays vigorous, there are notable institutional challenges facing the Parliament.
- There have been sweeping revamps in the anatomy of governance globally that are effectively transferring huge strengths and legitimacy to non-elected institutions. The power, honor, and authority of and trust in the efficacy of institutions that are not subject to popular authorization like transnational institutions, market regulators, courts, utility commissions, independent central banks and independent human rights commissions are exceptional.