Monday, April 19, 2010

What are the functions of Parliament? Describe the conduct of a day in Parliament.

Parliament has four main functions: legislation (making laws), representation (acting on behalf of voters and citizens), scrutiny (examining the government), and formation of government. The functions of the Indian Parliament can be divided into legislative, executive, financial and other categories.

Legislative Functions:

The process of legislating, making laws is the most basic day-to-day function of parliament. Under Articles 245 and 246 Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of India as defined under the Seventh Schedule.
Parliament can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Union List which has 97 subjects. 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 makes 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.

To Form or To End Government:

The Indian Parliament, like all parliamentary democracies, forms the government. Members of Parliament, from the largest party in the Lok Sabha or of late from the largest coalition, form the Government at the centre.

The government can function as long as it enjoys the support of the majority of the members of the Lower House.

The Executive Functions:
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 no-confidence or by refusing to endorse a confidence motion.
Parliament also maintains its control over executive in a routine manner through several other ways:
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. Calling attention notice or adjournment motion is used to raise matters of urgent public importance. The government always takes these motions very seriously because the government’s policies are criticized.

Censure Motion: This motion implies severe indictment of the government though 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:

The Parliament is the custodian of the public money. It controls the entire purse of the Central Government. No taxes can be legally levied and no expenditure incurred from the public exchequer without specific parliamentary authorization by law (articles 114, 116 and 265).This approval may be taken before the actual spending or in rare cases after the spending.
The annual statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure i.e. budget has to be approved by the Parliament every year. It monitors the expenditure of public funds through Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Public Undertakings, Estimates Committee and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The Electoral Functions:

The elected members of Parliament are members of the Electoral College and 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.

A Forum for Debate and Expression of Grievances:

During debate and discussion on legislative proposals or Finance Bills, motion to consider and approve government policies, motion of thanks on the President’s Address, Budget, etc. members are free to express themselves and to say what modifications in the existing policy are required. It acts as a forum for ventilation of the grievances of the people, their difficulties and their passions, anxieties and frustrations. After necessary legislation is taken up in this regard

Power of Removal:

Certain high functionaries may be removed from office on the initiative of the Parliament. 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

Amendment of the Constitution:

Most of the parts of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament by special majority. But certain provisions only be amended by the Parliament with the approval of States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Parliament cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution.

 Miscellaneous Functions:

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.

The Two Houses of Parliament:

From the federal point of view the Rajya Sabha represents the States 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. There are three aspects that need to be kept in mind as we are discussing the functioning of the Parliament:
1. Introduction and adoption of money bills and removal of a cabinet by passing no confidence motion are two functions in which Lok Sabha is superior to the Rajya
Sabha i.e. there is no need for the Rajya Sabha to sanction either of these.
2. In certain areas Rajya Sabha has been vested with exclusive powers. For example, it can declare a subject in state as a matter of national importance and facilitate a central legislation.
3. In all other cases both the Houses enjoy equal powers and need to approve, whether it is proclamation of emergency, moving of adjournment or anything else.

Thus the Indian Parliament, though limited by the federal nature of the political system, has wide functions to perform. In performing its functions, it has to mirror the aspirations and needs of the people of India. It also has to function as an agency for resolving socioeconomic or political conflicts in the country. It also helps in building consensus on specific issues, which are crucial to the nation.

Conduct of a day in parliament:

In a democracy Parliament acts as a bridge between the government and the people. The Parliament is the supreme forum through which people seek to realize their aspirations, urges and expectations. The Members of Parliament act as the chief communication channel between the people, Parliament and the Government. So a day in Parliament is designed for legislative functions as well as for the MPs to raise their queries and concerns. A day’s schedule can be normally divided in three parts:

1.    Question Hour
2.    Zero Hour
3.    Regular listed business

Time of commencement of a sitting:

Unless the Speaker otherwise directs, or the House itself decides otherwise, the House ordinarily sits from 11.00 hours to 13.00 hours and from 14.00 hours to 18.00 hours. Though there are some special days when the House meets at other time. They are:
(i)    On the day of the President's Address
(ii)           On the Budget Day

Mode of commencement of a sitting:

A sitting of the House is duly constituted when it is presided over by the Chairman or a member competent to preside over a sitting of the House. Before any of the presiding officers takes the Chair at the commencement of a sitting, the Marshal of the House ensures that there is a quorum in the House. If there is no quorum, the bell is rung till the House makes the quorum. The Marshal announces to the House the arrival of the presiding officer by his designation in Hindi. All present in the House stand up. The presiding officer enters from the Chairman's Chamber which is just behind the Chair and greets the House and takes the seat. Members respond to his greetings and take their seats.
With the quorum in the House and the presiding officer in Chair, the sitting of the House commences. Then the presiding officer proceeds with the business for the day as listed in the List of Business. The same practice is followed when the House reassembles after the lunch-recess or any other adjournment of the House during the course of its sitting.

Quorum for a sitting:

The quorum to constitute a meeting of either House of Parliament is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House. If at any time during a meeting of a House there is no quorum, it shall be the duty of the Chairman or Speaker or person acting as such, either to adjourn the House or to suspend the meeting until there is a quorum.

Question Hour:

The first hour of every sitting is available for the asking and answering of questions. The
Ministries/Departments of the Government of India are divided into five groups and the Ministers concerned answer questions by rotation.

Starred and Un-starred Questions:

Notices of questions by Members can be for oral or written answer.
Unstarred questions are not called for oral answers in the House and thus no supplementary questions can be asked thereon. These questions, along with their answers, are deemed to be laid on the Table of the House and are printed in the official debates of the sitting of the day for which they are put down. The questions asking for information of statistical nature; questions going into administrative details; questions about resolutions of a conference or recommendations of an expert committee, and action taken thereon etc.; questions which raise matters of local interest etc. are put under unstarred category.
Starred questions are taken up for oral answer during the question hour and supplementaries can be asked thereon. Under this category are put those questions only in respect of which supplementary questions are likely to arise.

Note: Not more than five questions in all whether starred or unstarred, can be placed on the lists of questions for any one day. Notice for these questions has to be given 21 days in advance.
Adjournment Motion: The primary object of an Adjournment Motion is to draw the attention of the House to a recent matter of urgent public importance having serious consequences and in regard to which a motion or a resolution with proper notice will be too late. Before the commencement of a session, notices of adjournment motion can at the earliest be given with effect from a day (which is usually the third working day before the commencement of the session) fixed in advance and notified in Bulletin. Notice of an adjournment motion should be addressed to the Secretary-General and given by 10.00 hours on the day on which the motion is proposed to be made. Notices received after 10.00 hours are treated as notices given for the next sitting.

Zero Hour Submissions:

Zero Hour may is the interregnum between the end of Question Hour and the beginning of the regular listed business in the House. There is no procedure prescribed in the Rules of Procedure for regulating the Zero Hour submissions. By conventions and practices Zero Hour has developed without having any specific sanction of the rule book. Zero Hour submissions, like Special Mentions, have also become an established practice and secured a distinct identity so as to warrant a separate treatment and discussion.

Although called Zero Hour, it lasts for may be half-an-hour or more or less. Sometimes it may also occupy full one hour or may even extend beyond an hour, depending on the number of matters which members may like to raise and the gravity and importance of such matters.

The emergence of Zero Hour can be traced to early sixties when many issues of great public importance and urgency began to be raised by members immediately after Question Hour, sometimes with prior permission of the Chairman or some other times without such permission. The "Zero Hour" has been a convention since the days of Dr. Radhakrishnan. People have been permitted to raise questions during this Hour and it goes on in both the Houses.

Zero Hour is of very special importance as Parliament is not only Government and Opposition-it is 630 individual members. It is quite conceivable that for various reasons, neither the Government nor the official Opposition might wish to discuss a matter which ought to be debated. The eternal problem in Parliament is that of reconciling the various claims: Government, Opposition, minorities and the single back bencher.

Regulating Zero Hour:

The Special Mention procedure was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the seventies. However, the demand for Zero Hour has not diminished even with the introduction of the Special Mention procedure. Since last two years, a practice has more or less developed that members approach the Chairman in his Chamber and give him in writing the subjects they wish to raise. Only those members to whom permission is granted are ordinarily permitted to mention the matter in the House.

Note: Unlike Special Mentions, there is no follow-up action on matters raised as the Zero Hour submissions.

Regular listed business:

After zero hour followed by lunch recess begins the regular listed business of the day. During this hour only new Bill, budget and such government proposals are discussed. This is the longest of the daily sessions of the Parliament and lasts till 6pm.
    In this duration ministers make statements in the House with prior notice to and the Speaker, in order to keep the House informed of matters of public importance or to apprise the House about Government policy. Notices regarding statements to be made in the House by Ministers or statements, reports or papers to be laid on the Table are  accepted from 10.00 hours on the days the List of Business wherein the item has been included, is circulated to members. In a case where a supplementary List of Business is circulated in the House in regard to a statement, notices in respect of that statement, received within fifteen minutes of circulation of the supplementary.

1 comment:


    Driver:Parliament stop!! get down!!!
    passenger:look thoroughly, it is very silent!! it will not be parliament!!!