India has a parliamentary form of government in which the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the lower House of the Parliament i.e. Lok Sabha. In a parliamentary form of government the Parliament is the most important organ. It is the people who elect their representatives to be members of the Parliament and these representatives legislate and control the executive on behalf of the people. The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers remain at the helm of affairs so long as they enjoy the confidence of Lok Sabha. The Parliament (Lok Sabha) may dislodge them from power by expressing a no confidence against the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers. Thus the Parliament occupies a central position in our parliamentary system.
Composition of the Parliament:
The Parliament has two Houses–Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha is upper House and represents the States of India while the Lok Sabha is lower House. It is also called popular House because it represents the people of India.
Rajya Sabha: Membership and Election
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the Parliament is a permanent body as it cannot be
dissolved. The membership of the Rajya Sabha cannot exceed 250. Out of these, the
President nominates 12 members on the basis of their excellence in literature, science, art
and social service and the rest are elected.
Rajya Sabha is the body representing States in Indian Union. The elected members of the
States’ Legislative Assemblies elect the members of the Rajya Sabha on the basis of
proportional representation through the single transferable vote system. But all the States
do not send equal number of members to the Rajya Sabha. Their representation is decided
on the basis of population of respective States. Delhi Assembly elects three members of Rajya Sabha and Pondicherry sends one member. Other Union Territories are not represented in the Rajya Sabha.
The qualifications for becoming a Rajya Sabha member are as follows:
1. He/she should be a citizen of India and at least 30 years of age.
2. He/she should make an oath or affirmation stating that he will bear true faith and
allegiance to the Constitution of India.
3. Thus according to the Representation of PeopleAct 1951, he/she should be registered
as a voter in the State from which he is seeking election to the Rajya Sabha. But in
2003, two provisions have been made regarding the elections to Rajya Sabha- (i)Any
Indian citizen can contest the Rajya Sabha elections irrespective of the State in which
he resides; (ii) elections are to be conducted through open voting system.
Every member of Rajya Sabha enjoys a safe tenure of six years. One-third of its members retire after every two years. They are entitled to contest again for the membership. But a member elected against a mid-term vacancy serves the remaining period only. This system of election ensures continuity in the working of Rajya Sabha.
Officials of Rajya Sabha:
The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He/she presides
over the meetings of Rajya Sabha. In his absence the Deputy Chairman, who is elected by
its members from amongst themselves, presides over the meeting of the House. The Deputy Chairman can be removed by a majority of all the then members of Rajya Sabha. But the Chairman (Vice-President) can only be removed from his office by a resolution passed by a majority of all the then members of Rajya Sabha and agreed to by the Lok Sabha.
As the Vice-President is an ex-officio Chairman and not a member of Rajya Sabha, he/ she is normally not entitled to vote. He/she can vote only in case of a tie.
Membership and Election of the Lok Sabha
Unlike Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha is not a permanent body. It is elected directly by the
people on the basis of universal adult franchise. It is also called the popular House or
lower House. The maximum permissible membership of Lok Sabha is 550 out of which
530 are directly elected from the States while 20 members are elected from the Union
Territories. Besides, the President may nominate two members from the Anglo-Indian
community if he/she feels that the said community is not adequately represented in the
Certain number of seats have been reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
in the Lok Sabha. The 79th Amendment has extended it for sixty years from the commencement of the Constitution.
The representation to the Lok Sabha is based on population. For the purpose of elections to the Lok Sabha, the States are divided into single member constituencies on the basis of population.
Any Indian citizen can become a member of Lok Sabha provided he/she fulfils the following qualifications:
1. He/she should be not less than 25 years of age.
2. He/she should declare through an oath or affirmation that he has true faith and
allegiance in the Constitution and that he will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of
3. He/she must possess such other qualifications as may be laid down by the Parliament
by law. He must be registered as a voter in any constituency in India.
4. Person contesting from the reserved seat should belong to the Scheduled Caste or
Scheduled Tribe as the case may be.
The normal term of Lok Sabha is five years. But the President, on the advice of Council of
Ministers, may dissolve it before the expiry of five years. In the case of national emergency,
its term can be extended for one year at a time. But it will not exceed six months after the
emergency is over.
Officials of the Lok Sabha:
The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker:
The presiding officer of Lok Sabha is known as Speaker. The members of the House elect him. He/she remains the Speaker even after Lok Sabha is dissolved till the next House elects a new Speaker in his place. In their absence, a Deputy Speaker who is also elected by the House presides over the meetings. Both the Speaker as well as the Deputy Speaker can be removed from office by a resolution of Lok Sabha passed by a majority of all the then members of the House.
Some of the powers and functions of the speaker are given below :
1. The basic function of the Speaker is to preside over the house and conduct the meetings
of the House in orderly manner. No member can speak in the House without their
permission. He/she may ask a member to finish his speech and in case the member
does not obey he/she may order that the speech should not be recorded.
2. All the Bills, reports, motions and resolutions are introduced with Speaker’s permission.
He/she puts the motion or bill to vote. He/she does not participate in the voting but when there is a tie i.e. equal number of votes on both sides, he/she can use his casting vote. But he/she is expected to caste her vote in a manner so that her impartiality and independence is retained.
3. His/her decisions in all parliamentary matters are final. She also rules on points of
order raised by the members and her decision is final.
4. He/she is the custodian of rights and privileges of the members.
5. He/she disqualifies a member of his/her membership in case of defection. He/she
also accepts the resignation of members and decides about the genuineness of the
6. In case of joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Speaker presides over the
Functions of Parliament
The functions and powers of the Indian Parliament can be divided into legislative, executive,
financial and other categories.
Basically the Parliament is a law-making body. Only Parliament can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Union List. Along with the State Legislatures, the Parliament is empowered to make laws on the Concurrent List. In case, both the Centre as well as the States make a law on the subject
mentioned in the Concurrent List then the central law prevails upon the state law if there is a clash between the two. Any subject not mentioned in any list i.e. residuary powers are vested with the Parliament.
In a parliamentary system of government there is a close relationship between the legislature
and the executive. And the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its acts. The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers are responsible to the Parliament individually as well as collectively. The Parliament can dislodge a ministry by passing a vote of noconfidence or by refusing to endorse a confidence motion. In India this has happened several times. This happened in 1999 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government lost the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by just one vote and resigned.
Parliament also maintains its control over executive in a routine manner through
several ways. Some of them are as follows:-
a. The members of Parliament can ask questions and supplementary questions regarding
any matters connected with the affairs of the Central Government. The first hour of
every working day of Parliament relates to the Question Hour in which the Ministers
have to answer the questions raised by the members.
b. If the members are not satisfied with the Government’s answer then they may demand
separate discussion on the subject.
c. The Parliament also exercises control over the executive through several motions.
For example calling attention notice or adjournment motion are such ways by which
some recent matters of urgent public importance are raised. The government always
takes these motions very seriously because the government’s policies are criticized
severely and their likely impact on the electorate whom the government would have
to face ultimately. If the motion is passed then it means that the government is censured. Censure Motion: This motion implies severe indictment of the government; but it does not require resignation of the Council of Members.
d. The Lok Sabha can express its lack of confidence in the executive by disapproving budget or money bill or even an ordinary bill.
The Financial Functions:
It is the custodian of the public money. It controls the entire purse of the Central Government. No money can be spent without its approval. This approval may be taken before the actual spending or in rare cases after the spending. The budget is approved by the Parliament every year.
The Electoral Functions:
The elected member of Parliament one members of the Electoral College for Presidential
election. As such, they participate in the election of the President of India. They elect the
Vice-President. The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the Rajya
Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
Power of Removal:
The President of India may be removed through the process of impeachment The judges of Supreme Court and of High Courts can be removed by an order of the President, which may be issued only if a resolution of their removal is passed by both Houses of Parliament by special majority.
Functions Regarding the Amendment of the Constitution:
Most of the parts of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament by special majority.
But certain provisions can only be amended by the Parliament with the approval of States.
However India being a federal State, the amending power of the Parliament is highly
limited. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Parliament cannot change the basic structure
of the Constitution.
Besides the above-mentioned functions, the Parliaments also performs a variety of other
functions. Some of them are as follows: –
a. While it is the power of the President to declare Emergency, the Parliament approves
all such Proclamations of Emergency. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have to
approve the Proclamation.
b. Parliament may form a new State by separating the territory from any State or by
uniting two or more States. It may also change the boundaries and the name of any
State. In the recent years (2000), new states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and
Uttarakhand were created.
c. Parliament may admit or establish new States in the Indian Union (Sikkim in 1975).
d. The Parliament can abolish or create Legislative Councils in the States. This is done
only on the request of concerned States Assemblies.
Law-making Procedure in the Parliament
Any proposed law is introduced in the Parliament as a bill. After being passed by the Parliament and getting the President’s assent it becomes a law. There are two kinds of bills, which come up before the Parliament:-(i) ordinary bill and (ii) money bill.
Every member of the Parliament has a right to introduce an ordinary bill and from this
point of view, we have two types of bills – government bills and private member’s bills. A
Minister moves a government bill and any bill not moved by a Minister is a Private Member’s
Bill, which means that the bill has been moved by a member of parliament but not a
minister in the Government. The Government bills consume most of the time of the
Parliament. The Bills pass through several stages. : –
(A) With the introduction of the bill, the First Reading of the bill starts. This stage is
simple. The Minister wanting to introduce a bill, informs the presiding officer. He/she
puts the question of introduction to the House. When approved, normally by voice vote, the Minister is called upon to introduce the bill.
(B) Second Reading: -This stage is the most vital stage. After general discussion the
House has four options: – (i) it may straightaway take the bill into detailed (clause-by-clause) consideration or (ii) refer it to a select committee of the House or, (iii)
refers it to the Joint Committee of both the Houses or (iv) circulate it among the
people to elicit public opinion. If the bill is referred to a select committee of the
House or the joint select committee of both the Houses, the concerned committee
examines the bill very minutely. Each and every clause is examined. The committee
may also take the opinion of professionals and legal experts. After due deliberations,
the committee submits its report to the House.
(C) Third Reading:- After the completion of the second reading, the Minister may move
that the bill be passed. At this stage normally no discussion takes place. The members
may oppose or support the adoption of the bill, by a simple majority of members
present and voting.
2. Bill in the other House: -After the bill has been passed by one House, it goes to the
other House. Here also the same procedure of three readings is followed. The
following consequences may follow: –
(A) It may pass it; then the bill is sent to the President for his assent.
(B) It may pass the bill with amendments. The bill will be sent back to the first House. In
such a case, the first House will consider the amendments and if it accepts the
amendments then the bill will be sent to President for his assent. In case the first
House refuses to accept the amendments, then it means there is a deadlock.
(C) It may reject it. It means there is a deadlock. In order to remove the deadlock
between the two Houses, the President may call for a joint sitting of the two Houses.
Such joint sittings are very rare in India and till now only three times such meetings
have taken place. They were convened on the occasion of passage of Dowry
Prohibition Bill 1959, Banking Service Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1978, and Prevention
of Terrorism Bill, 2002.
(D) President’s assent to the Bill:- After being passed by both the Houses or the Joint
Sitting of both Houses, the bill is referred to the President for his assent. The President
also has some options in this regard: – (i) He may give his assent and with his assent,
the bill becomes a law. (ii) He may withhold his assent, but may suggest some changes.
In such a case the bill is sent back to the House from where it had originated. But if both the Houses pass the bill again with or without accepting the recommendations of the President, the President has no option but to give his assent. (iii) In 1986, the President Giani Zail Singh invented a new option. He neither gave his assent nor he returned it to the Parliament for reconsideration of the Postal Bill. He sought some clarifications, which were never provided. The bill thus, lapsed.
The money bills are such bills which deal with money matters like imposition of taxes,
governmental expenditure and borrowings etc. In case there is a dispute as to weather a
bill is a money bill or not, the Speaker’s decision is final. The money bill has to undergo
three readings like an ordinary bill but few considerations are also added here.
(I) Money bill can be introduced only in Lok Sabha and not in Rajya Sabha and that too
with the prior approval of and on behalf of the President. (ii) After being passed by the
Lok Sabha, the bill goes to the Rajya Sabha. Rajya Sabha has 14 days at its disposal for
consideration and report. (iii) The Rajya Sabha cannot reject the money bill. It may either
accept it or make recommendations. (iv) In case Rajya Sabha chooses to make
recommendations, the bill will return to Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha may accept these
recommendations or reject them. In any case the bill will not go back to Rajya Sabha.
Instead it will be sent directly to the President for his assent. (v) If the Rajya Sabha does
not return the bill within 14 days, it will be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses
of the Parliament and sent to the President for his assent.
The Budget is an annual financial statement showing expected revenue and expenditure
of public money. It is not a bill. Every year the budget is presented by the Finance Minister
in the Lok Sabha.
The budget in India is presented in two parts- Railway Budget and the General Budget.
Presentation of the Budget: – The railway budget is generally presented by the Railway
minister in the third week of February, while the general budget is presented normally
on the last working day of February. The general budget is presented along with the
speech of the Finance Minister. The budget remains a closely guarded secret till its
presentation. After the speech, the Finance Minister introduces the Finance Bill, which
contains the taxation proposals of the government. The House rises thereafter and
there is no discussion on the day of the presentation of the Budget.
A new system of departmental select committees has been introduced in India since
1993-94. The Lok Sabha sets up committees for all major Ministries and Departments of
Union Government. The select committees consider demand for grants in details and
submit their recommendations to the Lok Sabha. After general discussion on the budget,
the Houses are adjourned for about three weeks. During this period select committees of
Departments of Ministry scrutinise budget demands and may make recommendations.
Quorum means the minimum number of members required to be present to enable the
House to meet. This is one-tenth of the total membership of the House. This means the
meeting of the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha can take place only if one tenth of the total
membership of the House is present.
Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha – A Comparative Study
From the federal point of view the Rajya Sabha represents the States in the Indian Union while
the Lok Sabha is the representative of the Indian people. The members of Legislative Assemblies of the States elect the members of Rajya Sabha while the people directly participate in the elections to the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha is a permanent House while the Lok Sabha is constituted for a specified
term of five years.
From the constitutional point of view, the relationship between the two Houses can best be studied from three angles which are as follows: –
1. There are certain powers and functions in which Lok Sabha is superior to the Rajya
Sabha. Introduction and adoption of money bills and removal of a cabinet by passing
no confidence motion are two examples relevant here.
2. In certain areas Rajya Sabha has been vested with exclusive powers. It does not
share these powers with the Lok Sabha. For example, it can declare a subject in
state as a matter of national importance and facilitate a central legislation.
3. In several areas, both the Houses enjoy equal powers. The examples are adoption of
bills other than money bills, approval of proclamation of emergency, moving of
adjournment and other types of motions.
Members of both houses of Parliament get Rs. 2 Crore per annum from the Members of
Parliament Local Development Fund. This fund is not directly allotted to the MP but to the
respective district headquarters and the MP can use it for development projects in his