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Q. Speaker's role and accountability: In the backdrop of recent controversies ( Uttarakhand budget and Aadhaar bill) comment on the speaker’s role and accountability.
Apr 28, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

India has adopted Westminster model (Parliamentary form) of government in both centre and states, where the Speaker of the legislature has considerable power and independence. It is required to maintain independence and fairness in legislative activities without any political motives. But in recent times role of Speaker came under severe scrutiny and made debatable issue of his/her discretionary powers.

Recent Controversies-

Two recent instances where discretionary power applied by speakers recently erupted controversies are-

  • Permitting the Aadhaar Bill, to be introduced in the House as a money Bill by Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

  • Refusing to allow a division of votes (the counting of legislators' votes) on the state budget by the Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly.

Issues and Constitutional Provisions-

In first case whether regulatory legislation such as Aadhaar meets the definition of a money Bill, which is traditionally reserved for proposals that alter taxation, borrowing, or affect the Consolidated Fund of India is doubtful. But according to the Article 110(3) of the constitution, in case of doubt whether a bill is money bill or not, the decision of the speaker is final.

In the second case by refusing to grant a division of votes, the Uttarakhand Speaker in effect declared the budget passed and insulated the government from a key test of democratic legitimacy. In this case also, no authority can question the action of the speaker and his/her ruling is considered as final as Article 212 (article 122 in case of parliament) bars courts in interfering in the proceedings of the assemblies.

Analysis-

In India Speakers’ of Legislature (both Parliament and Assembly) enjoys considerable discretionary powers. But many argue that in recent time’s speakers instead of acting as independent authority, they are acting in partisan manner and serving the interest ruling party.

Many blamed that Loksabha speaker helped to ruling party to get passed Aadhar bill as a money bill, because it does not have majority in Loksabha. Similarly they accuse Uttarakhand speaker for saving the then government by not allowing division of votes. As it was money bill, in case of defeat government would have lost the power. Hence many observers questioned the role of speaker in both the cases.

Conclusion-

Unfortunately, India now faces a situation where the decisions of the traditionally independent Speaker are come under severe scrutiny. Even this issue is being discussed in the Judiciary also, which may not be a good sign.  The problem needs to be solved and the traditional role of independent speaker needs to be revisited. Instead of forcing the judiciary to get involved, the legislature itself should consider required checks and balances can be imposed on the Speakers’ discretion in order to ensure that such situations are not repeated.


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