Speaker and Deputy Speaker

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    1968

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    Maharashtra has been without a Speaker since February, while Lok Sabha and several state Assemblies are without a Deputy Speaker.

    Background

    • Recently, Maharashtra concluded its two-day Monsoon Session without electing a Speaker. 
    • The previous Speaker was elected to the post in 2019 following the Assembly elections. 
    • Since Patole’s resignation from office in February this year, the Deputy Speaker has been at the helm of proceedings in the Legislative Assembly.

    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 respectively 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. 
      • The election of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is an important event in the life of the House.
    • Qualification:
      • As such, no specific qualifications are prescribed for being elected the Speaker. 
      • The Constitution only requires that the Speaker should be a member of the House
      • But an understanding of the Constitution and the laws of the country and the rules of procedure and conventions of Parliament is considered a major asset for the holder of the Office of the Speaker. 
    • Convention:
      • One of the first acts of a newly constituted House is to elect the Speaker. Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected the Speaker. 
      • A healthy convention, however, has evolved over the years whereby the ruling party nominates its candidate after informal consultations with the Leaders of other Parties and Groups in the House. 
      • This convention ensures that once elected, the Speaker enjoys the respect of all sections of the House. 
      • There are also instances when members not belonging to the ruling party or coalition were elected to the Office of the Speaker. 
    • Speaker pro-tem: 
      • The Speaker pro tem presides over the sitting in which the Speaker is elected, if it is a newly constituted House. 
      • If the election falls later in the life of a Lok Sabha, the Deputy Speaker presides. 
    • Term of Office:
      • Speaker holds Office from the date of his/her election till immediately before the first meeting of the Lok Sabha after the dissolution of the one to which he/she was elected. 
      • On the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, although the Speaker ceases to be a member of the House, he/she does not vacate his/her Office. 
    • Re-election:
      • He/She is eligible for re-election. 
    • Resignation and Removal:
      • The Speaker may, at any time, resign from Office by writing under his/her hand to the Deputy Speaker. 
      • The Speaker can be removed from Office only on a resolution of the House passed by a majority of all the then members of the House. 
      • Such a resolution has to satisfy some conditions like: 
        • it should be specific with respect to the charges
        • it should not contain arguments, inferences, ironical expressions, imputations or defamatory statements, etc. 
      • Not only these, discussions should be confined to charges referred to in the resolution. It is also mandatory to give a minimum of 14 days’ notice of the intention to move the resolution.
    • Principal Spokesperson:
      • The Speaker is the principal spokesman of the House.
      • He represents the collective voice of the House/Assembly and is its sole representative to the outside world. 
    • Presiding Officer:
      • The Speaker presides over the House proceedings and joint sittings of the two Houses of Parliament. 
    • Final deciding authority for a bill to be Money Bill:
      • It is the Speaker’s decision that determines whether a Bill is a Money Bill and therefore outside of the purview of the other House.

    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 respectively 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.
    • 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:
        • by death, or 
        • because of resignation 
    • Presiding officer in specific case:
      • 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.
    • 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. 
    • Present Scenario:
      • Information available on the websites of large state legislatures shows the position of Deputy Speaker vacant in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. 
      • Haryana and Uttar Pradesh specify a time-frame for holding the election to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s offices. 
        • In Haryana, the election of the Speaker has to take place as soon as possible after the election. And then the Deputy Speaker is to be elected within seven more days. The rules also specify that if a vacancy in these offices happens subsequently, then the election for these should occur within seven days of the legislature’s next session.
        • Uttar Pradesh has a 15-day limit for an election to the Speaker’s post if it falls vacant during the term of the Assembly. In the case of the Deputy Speaker, the date for the first election is to be decided by the Speaker, and 30 days is given for filling subsequent vacancies. 

    Powers and functions of the Speaker

    • According to the Constitution of India, a Speaker is vested with immense administrative and discretionary powers, some of which are enumerated below:
    • Business of House and presiding over meetings: The Speaker presides over the meetings in the House. In other words, the business in the House is conducted by the Speaker, ensuring discipline and decorum amongst its members. 
      • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
    • Guards Rights and Privileges of Members: He/she guards the rights and privileges of the members of the two Houses, deciding who should speak at what time, the questions to be asked, the order of proceedings to be followed, among others.
    • Voting and Casting Vote: A Speaker uses his/her power to vote, in order to resolve a deadlock. That is, when the House initiates a voting procedure, he does not cast a vote in the first instance. However, when the two sides receive an equal number of votes, the Speaker’s vote is used to resolve the deadlock, making his position as impartial as in the English system of democracy.
    • Adjourning the House/Meeting: In the absence of a quorum in the House, it is the duty of the Speaker to adjourn the House or to suspend any meeting, until the quorum is met. The Speaker decides the agenda that must be discussed in a meeting of the Members of the Parliament.
    • Interpreting Rules and Procedures: The Speaker is invested with the immense powers of interpreting the Rules of Procedure. That is, since he/she is the member of the House as well as the Presiding Officer at the same time, he ensures the discipline of the House. 
      • Punishment: The Speaker ensures that MPs are punished for unruly behaviour. 
      • Anti Defection: A Speaker can also disqualify a Member of Parliament from the House on grounds of defection. 
      • It is in the power of a Speaker, to permit the various parliamentary procedures such as the motion of adjournment, the motion of no confidence, the motion of censure, among others.
    • Certificate on the Bill: Once a Money Bill is transmitted from the Lower House to the Upper House, the Speaker is solely responsible for endorsing his or her certificate on the Bill. In other words, he/she is given the pivotal power to decide whether any Bill is a Money Bill. This decision is considered final, and all procedures henceforth, must be carried along accordingly.
    • Chairman of various Committees: The Speaker has under his or her jurisdiction, a number of Parliamentary Committees such as the Rules Committee, the Business Advisory Committee and the General Purposes Committee. The Speaker nominates the various Chairmen of these Committees, as well as looks into the procedural hindrances of the workings of these Committees, if any.
    • Ex-officio President of Indian Parliamentary Group: Besides heading the Lok Sabha, the Speaker is also the ‘ex-officio’ President of the Indian Parliamentary Group. He/she also acts in the capacity of Chairman of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India.
    • Security surveillance over Parliament: As part of the Speaker’s administrative role, he or she is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, maintaining absolute security surveillance in the Parliament.

    Challenges

    • No specific timeline for 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 of Speaker.
    • Vague guidelines: The Constitution provides that the office of the Speaker should never be empty. So, he continues in office until the beginning of the next House, except in the event of death or resignation.
    • Dependence on Political party for re-election: With no security in the continuity of office, the Speaker is dependent on his or her political party for reelection. This makes the Speaker susceptible to pulls and pressures from her/his political party in the conduct of the proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
    • Tenure dependence: As a minority view, Justice J.S. Verma in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others observed: “The Speaker being an authority within the House and his tenure being dependent on the will of the majority therein, likelihood of suspicion of bias could not be ruled out.” Currently, the extent of the Speaker’s political commitment often depends on the personality and character of the person holding the office. 
    • Maintaining Neutrality: However desirable the proposition of neutrality may be, in the present circumstances, it would be unrealistic to expect a Speaker to completely abjure all party considerations while functioning as there are structural issues regarding the manner of appointment of the Speaker and her tenure in office.

    Conclusion

    • The Office of the Speaker in India is a living and dynamic institution which deals with the actual needs and problems of Parliament in the performance of its functions. 
    • The Speaker represents the House. He/She represents the dignity of the House, the freedom of the House and because the House represents the nation, in a particular way, the Speaker becomes a symbol of nation’s freedom and liberty. 
    • The founding fathers of our Constitution had recognised the importance of this Office in our democratic set-up and it was this recognition that guided them in establishing this Office as one of the prominent and dignified ones in the scheme of governance of the country. 
    • Therefore that should be an honoured position, a free position and should be occupied always by persons of outstanding ability and impartiality.

    Sources: IE