Sessions of Parliament
Article 85(1) of the Constitution empowers the President to summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one Session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next Session.
Notwithstanding outer limit laid down in article 85, the Parliament may have to be called in order to pass at least a Vote on Account to carry on the administration as no money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India except under appropriation made by law passed in accordance with article 114(3). Besides, articles 352(4 &8), article 356(3) and article 360(2)(c) lay down certain time limits for summoning the Houses of Parliament.
The President exercises the power to summon the Houses on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. Normally, three Sessions, namely the Budget, Monsoon and Winter Sessions, are held in a calendar year.
In case of parliament, a session consist of many meetings. Each meeting of a day consist of two sittings. A sitting can be terminated by a Adjournment. It does not terminate the session of the house. It only suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks.
It is terminated by by presiding officer of the house. It does not affect the bills and business pending before the House and same can be reduced when the house meets again.
Adjournment sine die
Termination of a sitting of the House without any definite date being fixed for the next sitting. The power of adjournment and adjournment sine die lies with the speaker.
If the house is not functioning in an orderly manner or there is the demise of any constitutional post holder during the session, the Speaker announces adjournment of the house which means the house stops functioning. All debates come to a halt. Along with this announcement, the speaker also notifies the next time or date on which the house will assemble again. It can range from 15 minutes to many days.
After the business of a session is concluded, the speaker announces “adjournment sine die”, which means the house is adjourned for an indefinite period. After that, the president announces prorogation. This is in spirit to give sufficient time freedom to the house to conduct its business. However, the president can prorogue the house while in session, i.e. without adjournment sine die notice by the speaker.
Prorogation of the Houses
Under Article 85(2) of the Constitution, the President may from time to time prorogue Houses or either House of Parliament.
The termination of a session of the House by an Order by the President under the above constitutional provision is called ‘prorogation’.
Prorogation normally follows the adjournment of the sitting of the House sine die. The time-lag between the adjournment of the House sine die and its prorogation is generally two to four days, although there are instances when the House was prorogued on the same day on which it was adjourned sine die.
It is also not necessary that the two Houses are prorogued on the same day.
There have been instances when one House summoning and prorogation of Both Houses of Parliament was prorogued on its adjournment sine die while the other House was not prorogued on its adjournment sine die.
Either a day before or on the day when the Houses are scheduled to adjourn sine die on the conclusion of their Session, a Note for the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs inter alia proposing that the Houses which are scheduled to adjourn sine die on the following day/same day, may be prorogued on their adjournment sine die, is submitted for the approval of the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.
After the approval of the Minister, the approval of the CCPA to the proposal contained in the Note is normally obtained through circulation of papers. In case the CCPA has not been constituted by that time, a Note containing the proposal on the above lines, after it has been approved by the Minister, is submitted to the Prime Minister soliciting his approval to the proposal (Annex III-I).
After the CCPA/Prime Minister, as the case may be, has accorded his approval to the proposal, the Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, through a letter, communicates the decision of the Government in the matter to the Secretary-Generals of the two Houses.
The two Parliament Secretariats then separately obtain the approval of the President to the proposed date of prorogation of their respective Houses. After the President has accorded his approval, it is notified in the Gazette Extraordinary and simultaneously a paragraph in the regard is also inserted in the Parliamentary Bulletin Part II of the respective Houses informing the members of the prorogation of the Houses.
When the term, “Dissolution of Parliament” is used, it only means the Lok Sabha, the House of the People, the Lower House of Parliament.
The Parliament comprises the President, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, the Council of States, the Upper House. The first and third have fixed terms of five and six years respectively, the Lok Sabha has a term of five years but can be dissolved earlier.
There are two ways in which the Lok Sabha can be dissolved. First, when the leader of the majority (the ruling party) dissolves the Lok Sabha. While in this situation, the prerogative and timing is that of the leader of the majority, he has to dissolve the Lok Sabha if his five-year term is up. Second, when the leader of the majority, also known as the Treasury benches loses his majority in the Lok Sabha.
Then, the prerogative passes to the President, who can ask another leader to prove his majority in the Lok Sabha or dissolve the Lok Sabha, and call for elections.
After the Lok Sabha is dissolved, elections are held to constitute the next Lok Sabha. The prerogative of announcing the dates and conducting the elections belongs to the Election Commission.
Elections and Constituencies
The Election Commission has a timetable on the basis of which elections are held after the Lok Sabha is dissolved.
As per the Constitution, not more than six months must lapse before two sessions of Parliament. This means that the Election Commission is bound to hold the elections such that a new government can take office within six months of the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.
Also, the Election Commission has to give the various parties time to file their nominations for India’s 542 Lok Sabha constituencies, withdraw such candidature if they wish to, and campaign for the elections. This whole process takes about 45 days.
A Bill which is pending in the House of the People, or which having been passed by the House of the People is pending in the Council of States, shall, subject to the provisions of Article 108, lapse on a dissolution of the House of the People.
A Bill pending in Parliament shall not lapse by reason of the prorogation of the Houses.
A Bill pending in the Council of States which has not been passed by the House of the People shall not lapse on a dissolution of the House of the People.
The minimum no. of members of the House of parliament required to be present for a proceeding to start is called Quorum. It is 1/10th of the total membership of the House.
The Presiding Officer has power to prorogue a sitting in case of absence of quorum or suspend the sitting until there is quorum. For the Lok Sabha, the Quorum is 52 and for the Rajya Sabha, it is 24.
Mechanism of voting and recording of votes in Parliament
The convention for passing Bills in the Parliament is by orally communicating agreement or disagreement with the proposed motion (whether a Bill should be passed or not, for example). According to the voice vote, the Speaker decides whether the Bill is accepted or negated by the House. If a member is not happy with a voice vote, it can be challenged and a division can be asked for.
The procedure for division entails the Speaker to announce for the lobbies of Parliament to be cleared. Then the division bell rings continuously for three and a half minutes and so do many connected bells all through Parliament House and Parliament House Annexe. MPs come from all sides into the chamber and the doors are closed. The votes are recorded by the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment.
Languages in Parliament
A member who can adequately express himself in Hindi or in English cannot be permitted to speak in his mother tongue:
On the 10th April, 1963, a Member (Shri S. Kandappen) wrote to the Speaker for permission to speak on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Transport and Communications in his mother tongue Tamil. He submitted an advance copy of the English translation of his speech. When he was called and he began to speak in Tamil, the Speaker enquired as to whether the English translation submitted by him had been written by the Member himself. The Member answered in the affirmative. The Speaker, thereupon, observed:
“If the hon. Member can write in English and he knows English, how can I allow him to make a speech in Tamil?…. Unless he satisfies me that he cannot express himself in English or in Hindi, I cannot allow him to speak in Tamil.” Thereupon, the Member spoke in English.
During Question Hour only two languages, viz., English and Hindi are permitted. If a Minister is proficient in both English and Hindi, he might answer the question asked in English in English, and vice-versa.
Rights of Ministers and Attorney-General
Every Minister and the Attorney-General of India shall have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, either House, any joint sitting of the Houses, and any Committee of Parliament of which he may be named a member, but shall not by virtue of this article be entitled to vote.
Lame Duck session
A lame duck session is conducted after election of new members but before they are installed.
In such sessions participants vote for the last time as elected officials because of their failure to get re-elected or because they are retiring voluntarily.