About the Parliament
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the
supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining the
fundamental political principles, and establishing the
structure, procedures, powers and duties, of the government and
spells out the fundamental rights, directive principles and
duties of citizens.
Passed by the Constituent
Assembly on November 26, 1949, it came into effect on January
26, 1950. It declares The Union of India to be a sovereign,
democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality,
and liberty; the words "socialist" and "secular" were added to
the definition in 1976 by constitutional amendment.
India celebrates the adoption of
the constitution on January 26 each year as Republic Day. It is
the longest written constitution of any independent nation in
the world, containing 395 articles, 12 schedules and 83
amendments. Being the supreme law of the country, every law
enacted by the government must conform to the constitution.
The Parliament of India (or
Sansad) is the federal and supreme legislative body of
India. It consists of two houses ? the Lok Sabha and the Rajya
Sabha. Any bill can become an act only after it is passed by
both the houses of the Parliament and assented by the President.
The Lok Sabha is also known as
the "House of the People" or the lower house. Almost all of its
members are directly elected by citizens of India. It is the
more powerful of the two houses and can precede or overrule the
Rajya Sabha (upper house) in certain matters.
The Lok Sabha can have up to 552
members as envisaged in the Constitution of India (Article 81).
It has a term of five years but may be dissolved earlier by the
President in case of no party getting a majority. To be eligible
for membership of Lok Sabha, a person should be a citizen of
India and be not less than 25 years of age.
As of now, the Lok Sabha has 545
members, 530 members from the states, 13 members from the Union
territories and 2 nominated members representing the Anglo
Indian community. Some seats are reserved for representatives of
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The Rajya Sabha is also known as
"Council of States" or the upper house. Its members are
indirectly elected by members of legislative bodies of the
The Rajya Sabha has 250 members
in all. Elections to it are scheduled and the chamber cannot be
dissolved. Each member has a term of six years and elections are
held for one-third of the seats after every two years. The
composition is specified in Article 80 of the Constitution of
India. 12 members are nominated by the President from people
having special knowledge or experience in literature, science,
art or social services. The minimum age for a person to become a
member of Rajya Sabha is 30 years
Functions of the Parliament
The main function of the
Parliament is to pass laws. Every Bill has to be passed by both
the Houses of Parliament and assented to by the President before
it becomes law. The subjects over which Parliament can legislate
are the subjects mentioned under the Union List in the Seventh
Schedule to the Constitution of India. Besides passing laws,
Parliament can by means of resolutions, motions for adjournment,
discussions and questions addressed by members to Ministers
exercise control over the administration of the country and
safeguard people's liberties.
Role of the President with regard
The President of the Republic is
elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected
members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of
the Legislative Assemblies (popular Houses) of the States.
Though the President of India is a constituent part of
Parliament, he does not sit or participate in the discussions in
either of the two Houses. There are certain constitutional
functions which he has to perform with respect to Parliament.
The President summons and
prorogues the two Houses of Parliament from time to time.
While the Rajya Sabha is a
continuing body, the power to dissolve the Lok Sabha vests in
His assent is essential for a
Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament.
When the Parliament is not in
session he can promulgate Ordinances having the same force and
effect as laws passed by Parliament.
The President has the right to
address either or both the Houses of Parliament.
He has the power to appoint
Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
on an interim basis.
Special Powers of Rajya Sabha
enjoys certain special powers under the Constitution. If
Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a majority of not less
than two-thirds of the members present and voting declaring that
it is necessary or expedient in the national interest to create
one or more All India Services common to the Union and the
States, Parliament may then by law provide for the creation of
such service or services.
If a Proclamation is issued at a time when Lok Sabha has
been dissolved or the dissolution of Lok Sabha takes
place within the period allowed for its approval, then the
Proclamation can remain effective if, a resolution approving it
is passed by Rajya Sabha.
Qualifications for being a Member
Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for
membership of Parliament. They are similar for membership of
both the Houses except in respect of:
minimum age and representation.
he should be a citizen of India
and make and subscribe before some person authorised in that
behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation
according to the following form set out for the purpose in the
Third Schedule to the Constitution.
he must not be less than 30
years of age in the case of Rajya Sabha and 25 years in the
case of Lok Sabha (on the date of scrutiny of nomination).
he must possess such other
qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under
any law made by Parliament
Disqualifications for being a
Member of Parliament
Article 102 of the Constitution which lays down the
disqualifications for membership of either House of Parliament
reads as follows: A person shall be disqualified for being
chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament
he holds any off ice of profit
under the Government of India or the Government of any State,
other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to
disqualify its holder;
he is of unsound mind and
stands so declared by a competent court;
he is an undischarged
he is not a citizen of India,
or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign
State, or is under any acknowledgment of allegiance or
adherence to a foreign State; and
he is so disqualified by or
under any law made by Parliament.
A Bill is a draft law that Parliament proposes to make. If
approved and passed by Parliament, the Bill becomes an Act. A
Bill is divided into clauses; these become sections when the
Bill becomes an Act. There are three stages through which a bill
has to pass in one house of the Parliament.
First reading - introduction
Second reading - discussion
Third reading - voting stage
First reading ? introduction
A minister, or member-in-charge of the bill seeks the leave of
the house to introduce a bill. If the bill is an important one,
the minister may make a brief speech, stating its main features.
After the bill has been introduced, the first reading is deemed
to be over. Therefore, in the first stage, only the principles
and provisions of the bills are discussed.
Second reading ? discussion stage
This stage concerns the consideration of the bill and its
provisions and is further divide into three stages.
On a date fixed for taking up consideration of the bill, there
takes place a general discussion when only the principles are
taken up for discussion. At this stage, three options are open
to the house. The bill may be straightaway be taken into
consideration or it may be referred to any of the Standing
Committees or it may be circulated for the purpose of eliciting
general opinion thereon
Second stage, i.e. discussion on
The next stage consists of a clause-by-clause consideration of
the bill as reported by the committee. When all the clauses have
been put to vote and disposed of, the second reading of the bill
is over. Changes or amendments to the bill can be made only in
this stage. Amendments become a part of a bill if they are
accepted by a majority of the members present and voting.
Third reading ? voting stage
The next stage is the third reading. The debate on the third
reading of a bill is of a restricted character. It is confined
only to arguments either in support of the bill or for its
rejection, without referring to its details. After the bill is
passed, it is sent to the other house
Bill in the other house
After a bill, other than a money bill, is transmitted to the
Rajya Sabha, it goes through all the stages in that house as
that in the first house. But if the bill passed by one house is
amended by the other house, it goes back to the originating
house. If the originating house does not agree with the
amendments, it shall be that the two houses have disagreed.
Joint-session of both houses
In case of a deadlock between the two houses or in a case where
more than six months lapse in the other house, the President may
summon a joint session of the two houses which is presided over
by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the deadlock is resolved by
simple majority. Until now, only three bills: the Dowry
Prohibition Act (1961), the Banking Service Commission Repeal
Bill (1978) and the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (2002) have
been passed at joint sessions.
When a bill has been passed, it is sent to the President for his
assent. The President can assent or withhold his assent to a
bill or he can return a bill, other than a money bill with his
recommendations. If the President gives his assent, the bill
becomes an Act from the date of his assent. If he withholds his
assent, the bill is dropped. If he returns it for
reconsideration, the Parliament must do so, but if it is passed
again and returned to him, he must give his assent to it. In the
case of a Constitutional Amendment Bill, the President is bound
to give his assent.
Different types of Parliamentary
Bills may be classified on the basis of their content as
Ordinary Bill, Money and Finance Bills, and Constitution
Any Bill which
is not a Constitution Amendment Bill or a Money Bill is
classified as an Ordinary Bill. Ordinary Bills are of five
Original Bills (which embody
new proposals, ideas or policies),
Amending Bills (which modify,
amend or revise existing Acts),
Consolidating Bills (which
consolidate existing law on a particular subject),
Expiring Laws (Continuance)
Bills (which authorise the continuation of an expiring Act),
Bills to replace Ordinances
issued by the President.
Money and Financial Bills:
A Bill is considered to be a Money Bill if it contains only
provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters
listed below. A Financial Bill may contain other proposals in
addition to these. For example, a Bill that contains a taxation
clause, but does not deal solely with taxation is a Financial
The imposition, abolition,
remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
The regulation of money
borrowed by the Government of India or any guarantee given by
the Government of India;
The Bill can also consider
amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations
undertaken or to be undertaken by the Government of India;
The custody of the Consolidated
Fund of India or the Contingency Fund of India , the payment
of moneys into or the withdrawal of moneys from any such Fund;
The appropriation of moneys out
of the Consolidated Fund of India;
The declaring of a new item to
be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
Also, if there is any increase in the amount of any such
The receipt of money on account
of the Consolidated Fund of India or the Public Account of
India or the custody or the issue of such money or the audit
of the accounts of the Union or of a State; or
Any matter incidental to any of
the matters specified above.
Constitution Amendment Bills:
These Bills seek
to amend the Constitution of India.
How are the various types of
Bills passed by the Parliament?
An Ordinary Bill may be introduced in Lok Sabha or Rajya
Sabha. The Bill needs to be passed by both Houses by a majority
of members present and voting. If it is passed by the House in
which it was introduced, and rejected by the other House, the
President may call a joint sitting of both the Houses. In this
sitting, the decision to accept or reject a Bill is taken by the
majority of the total number of members of both Houses present
A Money Bill can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha and
requires the recommendation of the President. However, the
Speaker of the House has the final authority to decide whether a
Bill is a Money Bill or not. A Money Bill cannot be introduced
in Rajya Sabha nor can it be referred to a Joint Committee of
Houses or be considered at a Joint Sitting of the two Houses.
Once a Money Bill is passed in the Lok Sabha it is sent to the
Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha may not amend Money Bills but can
recommend amendments. A Money Bill should be returned by the
Rajya Sabha to the Lok Sabha within 14 days or the Bill is
deemed to have passed both Houses in the form it was originally
passed by the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha has the discretion to
accept or reject the recommended Amendments made by the Rajya
A Constitution Amendment Bill may be introduced in either
House and follow a process similar to an Ordinary Bill. The
difference lies in the majority required to pass the Bills.
Articles of the Constitution are classified into three
categories for the purpose of amendment:
Articles amendable by simple
majority of members present The Food Safety and Standards
Bill, 2005 Parliamentary Research Service February 13, 2006 -
8 - and voting;
Articles which require special
majority for their amendment, i.e., by a majority of the total
membership of that House and by a majority of not less than
two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting; and
Articles which require a
special majority as well as ratification by the legislatures
of not less than one-half of the States. The Constitution does
not provide for any time limit within which the States must
give their consent for the ratification of a Constitution
(Amendment) Bill, referred to them for this purpose.
What is a Finance Bill?
The Finance Bill incorporates all the financial proposals of the
Government for the following year. It is ordinarily introduced
in the Lok Sabha every year, immediately after the Budget is
presented. This Bill has to be considered and passed by the
Parliament and assented to by the President within 75 days after
its introduction. This Bill is classified as a Money Bill.
Types of Parliamentary Questions
A Question is one of the devices available to a
Member of Parliament to seek information on matter of public
importance concerning subjects detail with by the Ministries and
Departments and to force on the omissions and commissions of the
There are three types of Questions:
Starred questions are required to be answered orally by the
concerned Minister. These Questions are distinguished by an
asterisk mark. Members of Parliament have the option to raise
the Supplementary Questions based on the replies to the
starred Questions. These Questions for which a notice period
of minimum 10 days and maximum 21 days has been prescribed are
asked during the question Hour on the fixed days allotted to
the Ministry/Department. Started Questions from Lok Sabha are
printed on green paper and those of Rajya Sabha questions on
Unstarred Questions do not carry asterisk mark and are
answered in a written form. The notice period is the same as
that for the started Questions and these are also asked on the
allotted days of the Department/Ministry during Question Hour.
Lok Sabha Unstarred Questions are printed during Question
hour. Lok Sabha Unstated Questions are printed on white paper
and those of Rajya Sabha on yellow paper. The replies to the
Unstarred Questions are laid on the Table of the House.
Short Notice Questions:
Short Notice Questions relate to a matter of urgent public
importance and can be asked with a notice shorter than 10
days. These Questions are answered orally by the Minister
concerned and Supplementary Questions can also be asked.
However, a Short Notice Question can be asked only with the
concurrence of the Minister. The Short Notice questions from
Lok Sabha are printed on pinky white paper and those of Rajya
Sabha on white paper.
Hour in Parliament
Question Hour is the first hour
in India's Lok Sabha devoted to questions. During this hour
members can raise questions about any aspect of administrative
activity. This sort of a process where elected representatives
ask questions that are replied by the Prime Minister or other
government ministers is part of parliamentary tradition in many
Zero Hour in Parliament
During the ?Zero Hour? members
raise matters of importance, especially those which cannot be
delayed. Nobody knows which issue a member would raise during
this hour. As a result, questions so raised without prior notice
result in avoidable loss of precious time of the House. It also
obstructs the regular proceedings and business of the House.
A Half-an-Hour Discussion can be raised on a matter of
sufficient public importance which has been the subject of a
recent question in Lok Sabha irrespective of the fact whether
the question was answered orally or the answer was laid on the
Table of the House and the answer to which needs elucidation on
a matter of fact. Normally not more than half an hour is allowed
for such a discussion.
Selected Parliamentary Procedures
One tenth of the total number of members of Rajya Sabha
constitutes the quorum for a meeting of the House and the quorum
to initiate a session of the Lok Sabha is 55 members (one-tenth
of the total membership).
Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by
an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the
Constitution. Usually, prorogation follows the adjournment of
the sitting of the House sine die.
An adjournment terminates the sitting of the
House which meets again at the time appointed for the next
sitting. An adjournment also signifies brief break of the
sitting of the House which re-assembles at the appointed time on
the same day.
Dissolution of the House means the end of the life of the Lok
Sabha either by an order made by the President under article 85
(2) (b) of the Constitution or on the expiration of the period
of five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
The president is also authorised to issue ordinances with the
force of acts of Parliament when Parliament is not in session.
What is a Budget?
Budget is Estimate of inflows and outflows of the Government
during a year. Budget is presented for the ensuing Financial
What does Budget consist of?
Every budget consist of Actual figures for preceding years,
Budget and revised figures for the current year, Budget
estimates for the following years.
When is Budget presented?
Budget is to be presented in Lok Sabha on a day as the President
Who draws the timetable for
Timetable is drawn by the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of
Parliament. In the schedule drawn up by the BAC, there is a
fixed period of discussion for each ministry.
Who has the responsibility for
Budget Division in the Finance Ministry has the overall
responsibility. It prepares the budget on basis of proposal
received from various departments and ministries and the
availability of funds. However, final approval is from the Prime
What if Budget is not approved by
The Constitution empowers Lok Sabha to grant a Vote-on-Account
(Article 116) so that the government can continue with the
necessary expenditure into the new fiscal, before the Budget
proposals actually get passed after necessary discussions. The
vote-on-account normally covers the expenditure requirement of
the government for two months.
Presentation of Budget in the
Budget is presented in two parts:
The Budget of the Indian Railways is presented separately to
Parliament and dealt with separately, although the receipts and
expenditure of the Railways form part of the Consolidated Fund
of India and the figures relating to them are included in the
?Annual Financial Statement?.
It is presented
in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Finance. He makes a speech
introducing the Budget and it is only in the concluding part of
his speech that the proposals for fresh taxation or for
variations in the existing taxes are disclosed by him. The
?Annual Financial Statement? is laid on the Table of Rajya Sabha
at the conclusion of the speech of the Finance Minister in Lok
Vote on Account
Since Parliament is not able to vote the entire budget before
the commencement of the new financial year, the necessity to
keep enough finance at the disposal of Government in order to
allow it to run the administration of the country remains. A
special provision is, therefore, made for "Vote on Account" by
which Government obtains the Vote of Parliament for a sum
sufficient to incur expenditure on various items for a part of
Approval of Budget in the
In India, the Budget is presented to Parliament on such date as
is fixed by the President. The Budget speech of the Finance
Minister is usually in two parts. Part A deals with general
economic survey of the country while Part B relates to taxation
The Budget is discussed in two stages in Lok Sabha. First, there
is the General Discussion on the Budget as a whole. This lasts
for about 4 to 5 days. Only the broad outlines of the Budget and
the principles and policies underlying it are discussed at this
Consideration of the Demands by
Standing Committees of Parliament
After the first stage of General Discussion on both Railway as
well as General Budget is over, the House is adjourned for a
fixed period. During this period, the Demands for Grants of
various Ministries/Departments including Railways are considered
by concerned Standing Committees (Rule 331G). These Committees
are required to make their reports to the House within specified
period without asking for more time.
Voting on Demands
After the reports of the Standing Committees are presented to
the House, the House proceeds to the discussion and Voting on
Demands for Grants, Ministry-wise. The time for discussion and
Voting of Demands for Grants is allocated by the Speaker in
consultation with the Leader of the House. On the last day of
the allotted days, the Speaker puts all the outstanding Demands
to the Vote of the House. This device is popularly known as
Motions for reduction to various Demands for Grants are made in
the form of Cut Motions seeking to reduce the sums sought by
Government on grounds of economy or difference of opinion on
matters of policy or just in order to voice a grievance.
After the General Discussion on the Budget proposals and Voting
on Demands for Grants have been completed, Government introduces
the Appropriation Bill. The Appropriation Bill is intended to
give authority to Government to incur expenditure from and out
of the Consolidated Fund of India. The procedure for passing
this Bill is the same as in the case of other money Bills.
The Finance Bill seeking to give effect to the Government?s
taxation proposals which is introduced in Lok Sabha immediately
after the presentation of the General Budget, is taken up for
consideration and passing after the Appropriation Bill is
passed. However, certain provisions in the Bill relating to levy
and collection of fresh duties or variations in the existing
duties come into effect immediately on the expiry of the day on
which the Bill is introduced by virtue of a declaration under
the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act. Parliament has to pass
the Finance Bill within 75 days of its introduction.
No expenditure in excess of the sums authorised by Parliament
can be incurred without the sanction of Parliament. Whenever a
need arises to incur extra expenditure, a Supplementary estimate
is laid before Parliament. If any money has been spent on any
service during a financial year in excess of the amounts granted
for that service and for that year, the Minister of Finance/
Railways presents a Demand for Excess Grant. The procedure
followed in Parliament in regard to Supplementary/Excess Grants
is more or less the same as is adopted in the case of estimates
included in the General Budget.