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Indian Polity- Union Legislature: NCERT Notes UPSC
Jul 22, 2022
Legislatures are elected by the people and work on behalf of the people. The elected legislatures function and help in maintaining the democratic government. A genuine democracy is inconceivable without a representative, efficient and effective legislature.
Lawmaking is one of the functions of the legislature.
It is the centre of all democratic political processes and is packed with action; walkouts, protests, demonstrations, unanimity, concern and cooperation.
It also helps people in holding the representatives accountable.
It is recognised as one of the most democratic andopen forums of debate.
It is the most representative of all organs of government.
It is vested with the power to choose and dismiss the government.
‘Parliament’ refers to the national legislature and legislature of the States is described as State legislature.
Bicameral legislature: The Parliament in India has two Houses:
The Council of States or the Rajya Sabha
The House of the People or the Lok Sabha.
For States: The Constitution has given the States the option of establishing either a unicameral or bicameral legislature. At present only six States have a bicameral legislature.
Need of Two Houses of Parliament
To give representation to all sections: It is used by countries with large size and much diversity.
To give representation to all geographical regions or parts of the country.
To ensure double check for every decision: Every decision taken by one House goes to the other House for its decision so that every bill and policy would be discussed twice.
Base of representation: It represents the States of India.
Indirectly elected body: The elected members of State Legislative Assembly elect the members of the Rajya Sabha.
Two different principles of representation:
Symmetrical representation: To give equal representation to all the parts of the country irrespective of their size or population.
Representation to parts of the country according to their population:Regions or parts having larger population have more representatives in the second chamber. So, States with larger population get more representatives than States with smaller population. For example, Uttar Pradesh sends 31 members to the Rajya Sabha while Sikkim has only one seat.
Election to Rajya Sabha
Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected for a term of six years.
They can get re-elected.
Rajya Sabha is never fully dissolved:
Tenure: All members of the Rajya Sabha do not complete their terms at the same time.
Permanent House of the Parliament: Every two years, one third members of the Rajya Sabha complete their term and elections are held for those one third seats only.
Advantage: The meeting of the Rajya Sabha can be called for conducting urgent business even when the Lok Sabha is dissolved, and elections are yet to take place.
Nominated members in Rajya Sabha
It has twelve such members apart from the elected members.
The President nominates these members.
These nominations are made from among those persons who have made their mark in the fields of literature, science, art and social service.
The Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies are directly elected by the people.
For elections: The entire country (State, in case of State Legislative Assembly) is divided into territorial constituencies of roughly equal population.
One representative is elected from each constituency through universal adult suffrage.
At present, there are 543 constituencies which have not changed since the 1971 census.
The Lok Sabha is elected for a period of five years.
It can be dissolved before the completion of five years if no party or coalition can form the government or if the Prime Minister advises the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha and hold fresh elections.
Functions of Parliament
It enacts legislations for the country, but it often merely approves legislation.
Actual task of drafting the bill: It is performed by the bureaucracy under the supervision of the Minister concerned.
The substance and even the timing of the bill are decided by the Cabinet.
No major bill is introduced in the Parliament without the approval of the Cabinet.
Members other than ministers can also introduce bills, but these have no chance of being passed without the support of the government.
Control of Executive and ensuring its accountability
It ensures that the executive does not overstep its authority and remains responsible to the people who have elected them.
Controls taxation and the way of using money by the government: If the Government of India proposes to introduce any new tax, it has to get the approval of the Lok Sabha.
Parliament grants resources to the government to implement its programmes.
The government has to give an account to the legislature about the money it has spent and resources that it wishes to raise.
Ensuring government does not misspend or overspend: Through the budget and annual financial statements.
Parliament represents the divergent views of members from different regional, social, economic, religious groups of different parts of the country.
Highest forum of debate in the country: There is no limitation on its power of discussion. Members are free to speak on any matter without fear which makes it possible for the Parliament to analyse any or every issue that faces the nation.
Similar constituent powers: All constitutional amendments have to be approved by a special majority of both Houses.
It elects the President and Vice President of India.
It includes considering the proposals for removal of President, Vice-President and Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court.
Powers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
Powers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
Special Powers of Rajya Sabha
Its purpose is to protect the powers of the States. Therefore, any matter that affects the States must be referred to it for its consent and approval.
The approval of the Rajya Sabha is necessary if the Parliament wishes to remove a matter from the State list to either the Union List or Concurrent List in the interest of the nation.
Powers Exercised only by the Lok Sabha
The Rajya Sabha cannot initiate, reject or amend money bills.
The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Lok Sabha and not Rajya Sabha. Therefore, Rajya Sabha can criticise the government but cannot remove it.
Reasons for Giving Crucial Powers to Lok Sabha
People are final authority in democracy: The representatives, directly elected by the people, should have the crucial powers of removing a government and controlling the finances.
In all other spheres, including the passing of non-money bills, constitutional amendments, impeaching the President and removing the Vice President, the powers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are co-equal.
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Procedure of Making Laws in Parliament
A definite procedure is followed in the process of making law.
Some of the procedures of law-making are mentioned in the Constitution, while some have evolved from conventions.
Procedure of Making laws in Parliament:
Law-making process is technical and even tedious.
A Bill is a draft of the proposed law.
Different types of Bills:
Private member’s Bill: When a non-minister proposes a Bill.
Government Bill: A Bill proposed by a Minister.
Types of Bills
Different Stages in the Life of a Bill
Even before a bill is introduced in the Parliament:
Debate on the need for introducing such a bill: A political party may pressurize the government to initiate a bill.
Interest groups, media and citizens’ forums may also persuade the government for a particular legislation.
Lawmaking is thus not merely a legal procedure but also a political course of action.
During Preparation of a Bill:
It involves many considerations such as resources required to implement the law, the support or opposition that the bill is likely to produce, etc.
The Cabinet considers all these before arriving at a decision to enact a law.
Task of Drafting the Legislation:
It begins once the Cabinet approves the policy behind the legislation.
The draft of any bill is prepared by the concerned ministry.
First Stage of Law aking (Within the Parliament):
A bill may be introduced in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha by a member of the House (but often a Minister responsible for the subject introduces the bill).
A money bill can be introduced only in Lok Sabha.
Second Stage of Law-making: A large part of the discussion on the bills takes place in the committees. The recommendation of the committee is then sent to the House. Committees are referred to as miniature legislatures.
Third and Final Stage:
The bill is voted upon.
If a non-money bill is passed by one House, it is sent to the other House where it goes through exactly the same procedure.
A bill has to be passed by both Houses for enactment.
If there is disagreement between the two Houses on the proposed bill, attempt is made to resolve it through Joint Session of Parliament where usually the decision goes in favour of the Lok Sabha.
Special Procedure in respect of Money Bills:
Article 109 (1) A Money Bill shall not be introduced in the Council of States.
The Rajya Sabha can either approve the bill or suggest changes but cannot reject it.
If it takes no action within 14 days, the bill is deemed to have been passed.
Amendments to the bill, suggested by Rajya Sabha, may or may not be accepted by the Lok Sabha.
When a bill is passed by both Houses, it is sent to the President for his assent.
The assent of the President results in the enactment of a bill into a law.
Control on Executive by Parliament:
In a parliamentary democracy, the executive is drawn from the party or a coalition of parties that has a majority in Lok Sabha.
It is not difficult for the executive to exercise unlimited and arbitrary powers with the support of the majority party.
In such a situation, parliamentary democracy may slip into Cabinet dictatorship, where the Cabinet leads and the House merely follows.
An active and vigilant Parliament can keep regular and effective check on the executive.
No action can be taken against a member for whatever the member may have said in the legislature. This is known as parliamentary privilege.
The presiding officer of the legislature has the final powers in deciding matters of breach of privilege.
Purpose: To enable the members of the legislature to represent the people and exercise effective control over the executive.
Instruments of Parliamentary Control
The legislature in the parliamentary system ensures executive accountability at various stages: policy making, implementation of law or policy and during and post-implementation stage.
Various Devices Used by Legislature
Deliberation and Discussion:
During the law-making process: Members of the legislature get an opportunity to deliberate on the policy direction of the executive and the ways in which policies are implemented.
The control may also be exercised during the general discussions in the House.
Zero Hour: Members are free to raise any matter that they think is important (though the ministers are not bound to reply).
It is held every day during the sessions of Parliament where Ministers have to respond to searching questions raised by the members.
It is the most effective method of keeping vigil on the executive and the administrative agencies of the government. MPs have shown great interest in Question Hour and maximum attendance is recorded during this time.
It gives the members an opportunity to criticise the government and represent the problems of their constituencies.
Some other instruments are - half-an-hour discussion on matters of public importance, adjournment motion, etc.
Approval and Ratification of Laws
A bill can become a law only with the approval of the Parliament.
If the government has not a disciplined majority, such approvals are the products of intense bargaining and negotiations amongst the members of ruling party or coalition of parties and even government and opposition.
If the government has majority in Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha, the government will be forced to make substantial concessions to gain the approval of both the Houses.
Many bills, such as the Lok Pal Bill have failed enactment, Prevention of Terrorism bill (2002) was rejected by the Rajya Sabha.
Financial resources to implement the government programmes are granted through the Budget.
Preparation and presentation of budget for the approval of the legislature is constitutional obligation of the government. This obligation allows the legislature to exercise control over the purse strings of the government.
The legislature may refuse to grant resources to the government. (This seldom happens because the government ordinarily enjoys support of the majority in the parliamentary system)
Before granting money, the Lok Sabha can discuss the reasons for which the government requires money.
It can enquire into cases of misuse of funds on the basis of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Public Accounts committees.
Through financial control, the legislature controls the policy of the government.
No Confidence Motion
It is the most powerful weapon that enables the Parliament to ensure executive accountability.
Governments are forced to resign due to lack of confidence of the House.
The power of the House to dismiss the government is fictional rather than real till the governments has majority in the Lok Sabha.
Thus, the Parliament can effectively control the executive and ensure a more responsive government.
Decline of Parliament
In the last two decades, there has been a gradual decline in sessions of the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies and time spent on debates.
The Houses of the Parliament have been plagued by absence of quorum, boycott of sessions by opposition which deprive the House the power to control the executive through discussion.
Committees of Parliament
They play a vital role not merely in law making, but also in the day-to-day business of the House.
Limited time with the Parliament: As the Parliament meets only during sessions.
The making of law requires in-depth study of the issue under consideration. This in turn demands more attention and time.
Functions Performed by Parliamentary Committees
Studying the demands for grants made by various ministries.
Looking into expenditure incurred by various departments.
Investigating cases of corruption.
Since 1983, India has developed a system of parliamentary standing committees.
There are over twenty such departmentally related committees.
Standing Committeessupervise the work of various departments, their budget, their expenditure and bills that come up in the House relating to the department.
Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPCs)
They can be set up for the purpose of discussing a particular bill, like the joint committee to discuss bill, or for the purpose of investigating financial irregularities.
Members of these committees are selected from both Houses.
The committee system has reduced the burden on the Parliament. The Parliament has merely approved the work done in the committees with few occasional alterations.
Many important bills have been referred to committees.
No bill can become law, and no budget will be sanctioned unless approved by the Parliament. But the Parliament rarely rejects the suggestions made by the committees.
Regulation of Parliament by itself
Parliament as debating forum: It is through debates that the parliament performs all its vital functions which must be meaningful and orderly so that the functions of the Parliament are carried out smoothly and its dignity is intact.
The Constitution itself has made certain provisions to ensure smooth conduct of business.
The presiding officer of the legislature is the final authority in matters of regulating the business of the legislature.
Other way to control the behaviour of members
There was an agreement among the parties that a legislator who is elected on one party’s ticket must be restricted from ‘defecting’ to another party.
Constitutional Amendment (52nd Amendment Act) in 1985: This is known as anti-defection amendment. It has also been subsequently modified by the 91st amendment.
The presiding officer of the House is the authority who takes final decisions on all such cases.
If it is proved that a member has ‘defected’, then such member loses the membership of the House and is also disqualified from holding any political office like ministership, etc.
Bicameral Legislature means Legislature having two Houses.
Bicameralism in Germany:
Federal Assembly (Bundestag)
Federal Council (Bundesrat)
Defection: A member is considered to be defected if s/he remains absent in the House when asked by the party leadership to remain present or votes against the instructions of the party or voluntarily leaves the membership of the party.
Equality of states in USA: Every state has equal representation in the Senate.
Fourth Schedule of Constitution fix the number of members to be elected from each State in Rajya Sabha.
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