Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha

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    In News

    • Recently, the Delhi High Court asked Centre to explain its stand on delay in appointment of Deputy Speaker for Lok Sabha.

    About

    • A petition was filed that claimed keeping the post of Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha vacant is a violation of Article 93 of the Constitution.
    • The post of Deputy Speaker has been lying vacant since the Constitution of the 17th Lok Sabha in 2019.
    • Previous such instance: The longest time that this post had remained vacant was in the 12th Lok Sabha and even then on the 59th sitting of Parliament, election to the post was held.

    Arguments for Not Filling the Post

    • By convention, this post went to the Opposition but during the Budget Session of Parliament, Lok Sabha Speaker contracted COVID-19. The panel of chairpersons are not equipped to handle the job.
    • Soon after the 2019 general election, the government had made some effort to fill the position. It approached the YSR Congress, who turned down the offer since it would have been difficult to align their protest against the government for not according special status to Andhra Pradesh while occupying the post.
    • As the combined Opposition did not have the strength to elect a member of their choice, the choice fell on the government. The fact that there was no recognised leader of the Opposition also hampered the process. 

    Deputy Speaker

    • Article 93 of Constitution of India:
      • The House of the People shall, as soon as may be, choose two members of the House to be respective Speaker and Deputy Speaker thereof and, so often as the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker becomes vacant, the House shall choose another member to be Speaker or Deputy Speaker, as the case may be.
    • Election:
      • In the Lok Sabha, the lower House of the Indian Parliament, both Presiding Officers – the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are elected from among its members by a simple majority of members present and voting in the House. 
    • Independent from Speaker:
      • The Deputy Speaker is independent of the Speaker, not subordinate to him, as both are elected from among the members of the House.
      • When he presides over a sitting, he has all the powers of a Speaker.
    • Gaining importance: 
      • In addition to presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker chaired committees both inside and outside of Parliament. 
    • Ensures continuity os Speaker’s office:
      • The Deputy Speaker ensures the continuity of the Speakers office by acting as the Speaker when the office becomes vacant:
        • Illness, or
        • by death, or 
        • because of resignation or 
        • any other reason.
      • When the Speaker’s post falls vacant, it is the Deputy Speaker who assumes all the powers of the Speaker and exercises both legislative powers and administrative powers.
    • Presiding officer in specific cases:
      • When a resolution for removal of the Speaker is up for discussion, the Constitution specifies that the Deputy Speaker presides over the proceedings of the House.
      • A Deputy Speaker is also the ex-officio chairman of some committees by virtue of his position. 
    • From ruling party or opposition:
      • In the case of the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, the position has varied over the years. 
      • Until the fourth Lok Sabha, the Congress held both the Speaker and Deputy Speakers positions. In the fifth Lok Sabha, whose term was extended due to the Emergency, an independent member, Shri G G Swell, was elected the Deputy Speaker.
      • The tradition for the post of the Deputy Speaker going to the Opposition party started during the term of Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s government. 

    Issues

    • No specific timeline for Deputy Speaker’s appointment: Article 93 for Lok Sabha and Article 178 for state Assemblies state that these Houses “shall, as soon as may be”, choose two of its members to be Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The Constitution and the Assembly rules do not specify a time-frame for filling a vacancy in the post.
    • Maintaining Neutrality: It would be unrealistic to expect a Presiding Officer to completely abjure all party considerations while functioning as there are structural issues regarding the manner of appointment of the Speaker and his/her tenure in office.

    Need for Deputy Speaker

    • Unprecedented Move: It is quite unfortunate that the Deputy Speaker has not been appointed for more than two years now (for the first time in the history of independent India). 
    • Decreasing Discussion in Recent Times: Parliament is viewed as a temple of deliberation and discussion. But, in the recent Lok Sabha Monsoon session, there has been zero discussion on any policy issue. 
    • Falling Productivity: In 2020-21, Lok Sabha functioned for 34 days while Rajya Sabha functioned for 33 days. It was the lowest ever in India. Winter session 2020 was not conducted completely. Even Budget Session 2021 was reduced by two weeks because of election campaigning.
    • Hasty Legislation: No bill was passed to the Parliamentary Committee. Every bill introduced in this Monsoon Session was passed within the same session. Surprisingly, 18 bills were passed in Lok Sabha with only one bill being discussed over 15 minutes.

    Conclusion

    • The aforementioned points show how the government is ignoring the legislature. It should be held accountable, and the general public should ask questions about the functioning of Parliament.
    • Therefore, in the present circumstances, the post of Deputy Speaker is desirable to maintain neutrality and smooth functioning of the Parliament.

    Source: TH