Presiding Officers of Parliament
- The Speaker
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 or she must be a citizen of India.
- He or she must not be less than 25 years of age.
- He or she should not hold any office of profit under the Government of India, or the Government of any other state.
- He or she should not be of unsound mind.
Duty Term of the Speaker
The Speaker holds office during the life of the House, and once the House is dissolved, the Speaker’s term of office ends. However, the Speaker can be re-elected to the post. The Speaker’s office may however, terminate earlier than the expiry of the House due to the following reasons:
- When the Speaker ceases to be a Member of the House.
- When the Speaker resigns by writing to the Deputy Speaker.
- When the Speaker is removed from office by a resolution which is passed by a majority of all the members of the House. While such a process is underway, the Speaker cannot preside over the House, but can take part in the proceedings of the House.
Role of the Speaker
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. In other words, the Speaker of the two houses of the Parliament is responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the House.
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.
The Speaker plays the crucial role of ensuring that the Parliament 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.
Powers of the Speaker
According to the Constitution of India, a Speaker is vested with immense administrative and discretionary powers, some of which are enumerated below:
- The Speaker presides over the meetings in the House. In other words, the business in the House is conducted by the Speaker, ensuring discipline and decorum amongst its members. He/she guards the rights and privileges of the members of the two Houses, deciding who should speak at what time, the questions to be asked, the order of proceedings to be followed, among others.
- A Speaker uses his/her power to vote, in order to resolve a deadlock. That is, when the House initiates a voting procedure, he does not cast a vote in the first instance. However, when the two sides receive equal number of votes, the Speaker’s vote is used to resolve the deadlock, making the his position as impartial as in the English system of democracy.
- In the absence of a quorum in the House, it is the duty of the Speaker to adjourn the House or to suspend any meeting, until the quorum is met. The Speaker decides the agenda that must be discussed in a meeting of the Members of the Parliament.
- The Speaker is invested with the immense powers of interpreting the Rules of Procedure. That is, since he/she is the member of the House as well as the Presiding Officer at the same time, he ensures the discipline of the House. The Speaker ensures that MPs are punished for unruly behaviour. A Speaker can also disqualify a Member of Parliament from the House on grounds of defection. It is in the power of a Speaker, to permit the various parliamentary procedures such as the motion of adjournment, the motion of no confidence, the motion of censure, among others.
- The Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
- Once a Money Bill is transmitted from the Lower House to the Upper House, the Speaker is solely responsible for endorsing his or her certificate on the Bill. In other words, he/she is given the pivotal power to decide whether any Bill is a Money Bill. This decision is considered final, and all procedures henceforth, must be carried along accordingly.
- The Speaker has under his or her jurisdiction, a number of Parliamentary Committees such as the Rules Committee, the Business Advisory Committee and the General Purposes Committee. The Speaker nominates the various Chairmen of these Committees, as well as looks into the procedural hindrances of the workings of these Committees, if any.
- Besides heading the Lok Sabha, the Speaker is also the ‘ex-officio’ President of the Indian Parliamentary Group. He/she also acts in the capacity of Chairman of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India.
- As part of the Speaker’s administrative role, he or she is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, maintaining absolute security surveillance in the Parliament.
- Deputy Speaker
The Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha is elected by the lower house of the Parliament. He is chosen from the Lok Sabha members for a time span of five years. He acts as the presiding officer in the absence of the Speaker of Lok Sabha. He is supposed to perform all the duties and responsibilities of the Speaker in absence of him. Lok Sabha elects the Speaker from one of its members. The Speaker is helped by the Deputy Speaker for proper implementation of the work.
It is his responsibility to carry on various procedures of the lower houses of Parliament in the absence of the Speaker of Lok Sabha. The members of the Parliament raise various issues in the lower house before the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha. He is supposed to listen to every member and come out with a solution for it. The time for taking up the agendas are allotted by the Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha. Certain rules and directions are given by the Speaker for regulating the process of work in Lok Sabha.
The Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha is appointed in the first meeting of the lower house of Parliament. The meeting is held just after the elections. The person who is appointed as the Deputy Speaker of lower house must resign from his party to carry out his work properly. It is a norm in the Lok Sabha that the Deputy Speaker must be impartial and should not belong to any political party.
The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament is responsible for carrying out several functions like:
- Maintaining discipline and order in the Parliament
- Taking decision on important issues
- Deciding about the next issue to be taken up in the meeting
- Giving punishment to any member of the parliament for misbehavior
- Giving permission for several resolutions like and motions like motion of adjournment, motion of censure and motion of censure
- Appropriating a bill ( money bill or non money bill)
Panel of Chairpersons of Lok Sabha
According to ‘Rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha’, a Member of the panel may preside over the House when the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are absent.
It must be noted that in case of a vacancy a member of the panel cannot preside over the House. In such a case, president appoints a member of the house for the purpose. Vacancy is said to have arisen in case of Death, resignation and removal of the concerned.
Pro tem Speaker
Till a regular Speaker is elected, a Pro Tem Speaker administers oath to a new House and conducts proceedings.
Under normal circumstances, a pro tem Speaker is sworn in by the President and an hour later, the Lok Sabha is convened and the newly-elected members are sworn in.
As soon as the new government is formed, the Legislative Section of Parliament prepares a list of the senior most Lok Sabha members. The list is then submitted to the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs for the appointment of a pro tem Speaker. Thereafter, the minister submits a note to the President seeking his approval to the appointment of the pro tem Speaker.
In situations when both the Speaker’s and the Deputy Speaker’s posts in the House may lie vacant, (death, resignation, and so on), the tasks in the House are undertaken under the pro tem Speaker.
Such a situation, in fact, arose in the first Lok Sabha itself when the first Lok Sabha Speaker GV Mavalankar passed away on February 27, 1956, 14 months before the term of the House ended on April 4, 1957. The first Lok Sabha had three pro tem Speakers: Mavalankar who was also appointed the Speaker later, then B. Das and finally Sardar Hukum Singh who later became the Deputy Speaker of the House.
The powers of the pro tem Speaker are not defined. But the pro tem Speaker does not surely have as much power as the permanent Speaker has.
Rajya Sabha Chairman
According to the Constitution of India, the Vice President is the Rajya Sabha Chairman. The Vice President of India shall be the ex officio Chairman of Upper House of the Parliament or Rajya Sabha as per the Articles 64 and 89(1). The Vice-President, as the Rajya Sabha Chairman, chairs over the meetings of the House.
The pride and status of the House depends on the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, as he is the accepted guardian of the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. The Rajya Sabha Chairman is the major spokesperson of the House and he/she also symbolizes the joint voice to the outer globe.
It is the duty of the Chairman of Rajya Sabha to ensure that the proceedings of the House are conducted in a regimented method and are in harmony with the pertinent provisions of the Constitution of India. It is also his duty to ensure that the members of the Upper House get proper chance to ask questions and get proper reply.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to vote in any matters of the House. He can only put vote when there is a tie. The decisions of the Chairman Rajya Sabha cannot be ignored or criticized. The Chairman is also not bound to show reasons for any of his decisions. The act of protesting against the ruling of the Chairman is regarded as a contempt of Court.
The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is helped by the Deputy Chairman in the proceedings of the House. The present Chairman of Rajya Sabha is Mohammad Hamid Ansari. The first Chairman of Rajya Sabha was Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and Shri S.V. Krishnamoorthy was the first Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
The Deputy Chairman is elected by Rajya Sabha from amongst its members.
The Deputy Chairman office may vacate his office if cease to be member of RS or resigns or removed by resolution passed by absolute majority of Rajya Sabha with giving 14 days prior notice to him.
He performs duties of Chairman in his absence or when office fall vacant and enjoys such powers as conferred by virtue of office of Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
As a Deputy Chairman, he is not a subordinate to Chairman but directly responsible to Rajya Sabha.
Panel of Vice Chairpersons of RS
The Chairman nominates a Panel of Vice Chairpersons amongst member of Rajya Sabha. Any of them can preside over sitting of the house, in the absence of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman.
They can’t preside over house when office of Chairman/deputy Chairman is vacant. In that case, President can appoint any member to preside over house.