Legislature Unit IV paper II (part 2)

Date: May 05, 2015

CENTRAL LEGISLATURE/ PARLIAMENT

President

The President of India is an integral part of the Indian Parliament like the Crown of England and unlike the American President. However, the Indian President differs from the Crown of England in respect of his power and status, e.g. certain discretionary powers vis-a-vis legislation and administering of oath.

The Constitution vests the power of carrying on the business of government in the President, but the President exercises this power under the Constitutional limitations, e.g. Article 74(1) “ the executive powers shall be exercised by the President of India ‘in accordance with the’ advice of his Council of Ministers, or Article 53(1) demands that the President must exercise his powers according to the Constitution.” The President represents the nation and is the symbol of unity and it is in this sense that (s)he is the “head of the state”. However, the post of President has raised a few questions, such as, What exactly is a President supposed to do? How can he exercise the powers, formally or informally, vested in him by the Constitution? Is the President something more than “the first citizen” or a “rubber stamp”?     S.S.Khera says that he can certainly have a “mind of his own, free of all political trammels and without any urge or ambition to take an active hand in governmental decision making,or towards changing the provisions of the existing constitution relating to his position and powers.”

However, a harmonious correlation between the President and various legislative institutions has led to a sort of successful working of parliamentary democracy. For instance, the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister is crucial in legislation. A sore relationship between the two indicates problematic in the legislative issues and therefore will catch attention of the opposition and civil society for a sustained debate. The relationship may have political ramifications, which perhaps may be echoed in the President’s speech inside as well as outside the Parliament.

 

Lok Sabha

The Parliament of India is bicameral. The Lower House is the Lok Sabha, or House of the people. Its members are elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Every adult citizen (18 years and above) is entitled to vote, other than non-residents, the insane, criminals and those who have been convicted of corrupt electoral practices. In a reserved constituency, only members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes may run for office, but all adults within the constituency may vote. The two nominated seats are filled by the President with representatives of the Anglo-Indian community.

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The system of voting is the single member constituency. The system has produced governments that have substantial majorities in the Parliament, yet lack endorsement from a majority of the voters. A proportional reservation system would have been fairer to opposition parties and more representative in a mathematically defined version of deliberative democracy. By and large, Parliament is fairly chosen with the help of the Constitutional body called the Election Commission. While individual seats may have been determined by musclemen or bribes, no general election in India has produced an overall result that was not a fair reflection of voter preferences.

The term of the Lok Sabha is for a maximum period of five years, although in an emergency this may be extended to one year at a time indefinitely. There is no minimum term of the parliament. While the parliament may be dissolved and fresh elections held because a government has lost the confidence of the house, the more common occurrence is for a prime-minister to time a call for fresh elections with the goal of maximising personal or party political gains.

The Lok Sabha is required by the Constitution to convene, twice a year, with a maximum allowable period of gap between the two sessions being six months. In practice the Lok Sabha has often met in three sessions per year. The language of parliamentary business is mostly Hindi or English, although a member may use any of the recognised official languages.

The process of legislation involves three stages corresponding to the familiar three readings of bills in the parliamentary systems: the introduction of a bill, its consideration and its enactment into law. The first reading consists of the bill being introduced alongwith an explanation of its aim and purposes. After the second reading, a bill may be referred to select committee, circulated for public response or taken up for immediate consideration. The last course is rare and reserved for urgent and uncontroversial items. The second course is the most frequent. The select committee reports back either unanimously or with a majority recommendation and a minority note of dissent. The bill is then considered in the House clause by clause, with members being able to introduce amendments. Once all clauses have been dealt with, the bill has crossed the report stage, and is listed for its third and final reading, which is tidying-up amendments and then the bill is put to vote. If the speaker authenticates its passing, the bill is sent to the second house, where the entire procedure is repeated. When both Houses of Parliament have passed an identical version of a bill, it is presented to the President for formal assent, and becomes law on receiving his assent.

The sessional and daily business of the government is decided by the cabinet and its Parliamentary affairs committee under the chairmanship of the chief whip. Each session of the Lok Sabha is opened with a presidential address. The quorum for the Lok Sabha to be able to meet is one-tenth of its membership. The Lok-Sabha is of course fundamentally akin to other Legislative Assemblies in Parliamentary regimes, its context can, however, be quite different, reflecting its own unique socio-political environment. The conduct of the House is in the hands of the Speaker who recognises members, keeps order and does other things, which are required of presiding officers. The speaker may not vote on an issue before the Lok Sabha, but can exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie on any motion. The Speaker is selected by the governing party for formal election by the House but is expected to conduct Parliamentary business with fairness and impartiality.

Parliament is the central forum for amending the Constitution under article 368. The procedural powers are those which allow the parliament to make rules for the conduct of its business. The legislative powers pertain to the authority and role of Parliament in enacting laws for governing the country. Parliament is technically the legislature, the institution that enacts the law of the land and the authority of the people and the assent of the head of state. In reality the legislative agenda is controlled by the government and endorsed by the Parliament with the help of tightly maintained party discipline. The financial powers of Parliament are those empowering it to raise and spend money as it sees fit, including discussion and approval of the annual budget. Only the Parliament has the authority to levy taxes and spend money from the Consolidated Fund.

Parliament formally controls the reins of the government in the sense that the cabinet is required to have the confidence of the Lok Sabha and is collectively responsible to the Parliament. Under constitutive powers, finally, parliament can legislate to admit or create new states into the Union of India; to create a High Court for a Union Territory and to extend the jurisdiction of a High Court to or restrict it from a Union Territory; and to create or abolish a Legislative Council (an Upper House) for a state with the consent of the State’s Assembly (Lower House).

 

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