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Indian Polity

Parliament (Part-I)

  • 03 Nov 2021
  • 14 min read


  • Supreme Legislative Body: The Parliament is the legislative organ of a Union government and the Parliament of India is its supreme legislative body.
    • It occupies a pre-eminent and central position in the Indian democratic political system due to the adoption of the Parliamentary form of Government (‘Westminster’ model of government).
  • First Parliament: The first general elections under the new Constitution of India were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Parliament came into existence in April, 1952.
  • Constitutional Provisions: Articles 79 to 122 in Part V of the Constitution deal with the organisation, composition, duration, officers, procedures, privileges and powers of the Parliament.
  • Frame of Reference for Parliament: The framers of the Indian Constitution relied on the British pattern for Parliament rather than the American pattern.
    • The President is not an integral part of the legislature in the USA, however, in India, it is.

Organs of Parliament

  • Rajya Sabha (The Council of States):
    • About: It is the Upper House (Second Chamber or House of Elders) and it represents the states and union territories of the Indian Union.
      • The Rajya Sabha is called the permanent House of the Parliament as it is never fully dissolved.
      • The IV Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha to the states and UTs.
    • Composition: The maximum strength of Rajya Sabha is 250 ( out of which 238 members are representatives of the states & UTs (elected indirectly) and 12 are nominated by the President).
      • Current strength of the house is 245, 229 members represent the states, 4 members represent the UTs and 12 are nominated by the president.
    • Election of Representatives: The representatives of states are elected by the members of state legislative assemblies.
      • The representatives of each UT in the Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by members of an electoral college specially constituted for the purpose.
        • Only three UTs (Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu & Kashmir) have representation in Rajya Sabha (others don’t have enough population).
      • The members nominated by the President are those who have special knowledge or practical experience in art, literature, science and social service.
        • The rationale is to provide eminent persons a place in the house without going through elections.
    • Functions: Rajya Sabha has an important role of reviewing and altering the laws initiated by the Lok Sabha.
      • It can also initiate legislation and a bill is required to pass through the Rajya Sabha in order to become a law.
    • Power:
      • State Related Matters: The Rajya Sabha provides representation to the States. Therefore, any matter that affects the States must be referred to it for its consent and approval.
        • If the Union Parliament wishes to remove/transfer a matter from the State list, the approval of the Rajya Sabha is necessary.
  • Lok Sabha (The House of the People):
    • About: It is the Lower House (First Chamber or Popular House and it represents the people of India as a whole.
    • Composition: The maximum strength of the Lok Sabha is fixed at 550 out of which 530 members are to be the representatives of the states and 20 of the UTs.
      • The current strength of Lok Sabha is 543, out of which 530 members represent the states and 13 represent the UTs.
      • Earlier, the President also nominated two members from the Anglo-Indian community, but by the 95th Amendment Act, 2009, this provision was valid till 2020 only.
    • Election of Representatives: The representatives of states are directly elected by the people from the territorial constituencies in the states.
      • By the Union Territories (Direct Election to the House of the People) Act, 1965, the members of Lok Sabha from the UTs are chosen by direct election.
    • Functions: One of the most important functions of the Lok Sabha is to select the executive, a group of persons who work together to implement the laws made by the Parliament.
      • This executive is often what we have in mind when we use the term government.
    • Powers:
      • Decisions in Joint Sitting: Any ordinary law needs to be passed by both the Houses.
        • However, in case of any difference between the two Houses, the final decision is taken by calling a joint session of both the Houses.
        • Due to a larger strength, the view of the Lok Sabha is likely to prevail in such a meeting.
      • Power in Money Matters: Lok Sabha exercises more powers in money matters. Once the Lok Sabha passes the budget of the government or any other money related law, the Rajya Sabha cannot reject it.
        • The Rajya Sabha can only delay it by 14 days or suggest changes in it, however, the former may or may not accept these changes.
      • Power over Council of Ministers: The Lok Sabha controls the Council of Ministers.
        • If the majority of the Lok Sabha members say they have ‘no confidence’ in the Council of Ministers, all ministers including the Prime Minister, have to quit.
        • The Rajya Sabha does not have this power.
  • President:
    • About: The President of India is not a member of either of the Houses and does not sit in the Parliament to attend its meetings but s/he is an integral part of the Parliament.
      • S/He is the head of the state and is the highest formal authority in the country.
    • Appointment: The elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and the elected Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) elect the President of India.
    • Powers:
      • Assent for Passing a Bill: A bill passed by both the Houses of Parliament cannot become law without the President’s assent.
      • Summoning and Prorogation of Houses: He has the power to summon and prorogue both the Houses, dissolve the Lok Sabha and issue ordinances when the Houses are not in session.

Membership of Parliament

  • Qualifications:
    • Rajya Sabha: S/He should be a citizen of India and at least 30 years of age.
      • S/He should make an oath or affirmation stating that s/he will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.
      • According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, s/he should be registered as a voter in the State from which s/he is seeking election to the Rajya Sabha.
        • However, in 2003, a provision was made declaring, any Indian citizen can contest the Rajya Sabha elections irrespective of the State in which s/he resides.
    • Lok Sabha: S/He should be not less than 25 years of age.
      • S/He should declare through an oath or affirmation that s/he has true faith and allegiance in the Constitution and that a/he will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.
      • S/He must possess such other qualifications as may be laid down by the Parliament by law and must be registered as a voter in any constituency in India.
      • Person contesting from the reserved seat should belong to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe as the case may be.
  • Disqualifications:
    • On Constitutional Grounds:
      • If s/he holds any office of profit under the Union or state government (except that of a minister or any other office exempted by Parliament).
      • If s/he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
      • If s/he is an undischarged insolvent.
      • If s/he is not (or not anymore) a citizen of India.
      • If s/he is disqualified under any law made by Parliament.
    • On Statutory Grounds (Representation of People Act, 1951):
      • Found guilty of certain election offences/corrupt practices in the elections.
      • Convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more years (detention under a preventive detention law is not a disqualification).
      • Has been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the State.
      • Convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery.
      • Punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati.
  • Tenure:
    • Rajya Sabha: Every member of Rajya Sabha enjoys a safe tenure of six years.
      • One-third of its members retire after every two years. They are entitled to contest again for the membership.
    • Lok Sabha: The normal term of Lok Sabha is five years. But the President, on the advice of the Council of Ministers, may dissolve it before the expiry of five years.
      • In the case of national emergency, its term can be extended for one year at a time. But it will not exceed six months after the emergency is over.
  • Officials:
    • Rajya Sabha: The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. S/He presides over the meetings of Rajya Sabha.
      • In his absence the Deputy Chairman (elected by its members from amongst themselves) presides over the meeting of the House.
    • Lok Sabha: The presiding officer of Lok Sabha is known as Speaker.
      • S/He remains the Speaker even after Lok Sabha is dissolved till the next House elects a new Speaker in her/his place.
      • In the speaker’s absence, a Deputy Speaker (elected by the House) presides over the meetings.

Powers/Functions of Parliament

  • Legislative Functions: Only Parliament can make laws on the subjects of the Union List. Along with the State Legislatures, the Parliament is empowered to make laws on the Concurrent List.
    • In a subject not mentioned in any list, the residuary powers are vested with the Parliament.
  • Financial Functions: It is the custodian of the public money. The Government can neither impose any tax on the public nor spend the money without the approval of the Parliament.
    • The budget is approved by the Parliament every year.
  • Electoral Functions: It participates in the election of the President of India and also elects the Vice-President.
    • The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
  • Power of Removal: Certain high functionaries may be removed from office on the initiative of the Parliament.
    • It can remove the President, Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts through impeachment for violation of the Constitution.
  • Amendment of the Constitution: Most of the parts of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament by special majority.
  • Power over Executive: Parliament exercises control over the Executive through question-hour, zero hour, calling attention notice, adjournment motion etc.
    • The government always takes these motions very seriously because the government’s policies are criticized severely and their likely impact on the electorate whom the government would have to face ultimately.
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