Parliamentary Secretariat


    Syllabus: GS2/ Parliament & State Legislatures, Conduct of Business, Structure & Functioning

    In News

    • Vithalbhai Patel, who in 1925 became the first elected Speaker (then called the President) of the Central Assembly, championed the idea of a separate secretariat for the legislature

    About Parliamentary Secretariat

    • Origin: Vithalbhai Patel believed that if the office of the Speaker had to work independently, it needed a staff directly under its control.
      • Patel also pushed for a separate security establishment for the legislature. 
    • Rules of procedure: Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha rules of procedure require that the “Secretary-General shall cause to be prepared a full report of the proceedings of the House at each of its sittings and shall, as soon as practicable, publish it in such form and manner” as directed by the presiding officer.
      • The rule’s genesis lies in an 1861 communication from the Secretary of State for India to the Governor General.
    • Functions: Advises presiding officers of the two Houses,
      • Provides MPs with information to aid their legislative interventions and 
      • Ensures that the legislature functions smoothly. 
      • It has also been the custodian of procedure, precedent, legislative knowledge and their transfer across parliamentary terms. 
    • Structuring the secretariats: The nature of parliamentary work meant different work streams in the Parliament secretariats.
      • In 1974, a committee of MPs recommended structuring the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats into 11 functional areas, like
        • legislative (dealing with the work of the Houses), 
        • library research and information, 
        • verbatim reporting, editorial and translation, 
        • Interpretation, printing and publication, and 
        • Watch and ward (renamed Parliament Security) service. 
    • Staff & Services: With administrative consolidation, the roughly 2,200 Lok Sabha and 1,500 Rajya Sabha secretariat officers are organised into eight services.
      • The Constitution specifies that Parliament could make a law to regulate the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the secretarial staff of Parliament. 
      • But Parliament has made no such law; therefore, these are done according to the rules made by the presiding officers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
    • Independence of office: While the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats are independent of the government, the same is not valid for state legislature secretariats.
      • The Secretary General remains in office till his/her retirement at the age of 60. 
      • He/she is answerable only to the Speaker, his action cannot be discussed or criticised in or outside the Lok Sabha.

    About Secretary-Generals

    • Appointment of Secretary-Generals: Two Secretary-Generals, one for Lok Sabha and the other for Rajya Sabha, are at the helm of the respective secretariats.
      • The presiding officers of the two Houses have discretion in appointing the Secretary-General
      • For example, the Rajya Sabha recruitment order specifies that the Chairperson of Rajya Sabha shall make the appointment to the post of the Secretary-General. The order also empowers the presiding officer of Rajya Sabha to fill senior positions like that of Secretary/Additional Secretary by “persons of equivalent stature and experience from other sources on contract basis”.
    • Roles of Secretary-Generals: Secretary-Generals aid and advise the presiding officers of the two Houses in discharging their constitutional and statutory responsibilities.
      • The Parliamentary Pay Committee, in its 2009 report, described the role of the Secretary-General. The position of the Secretary-General has dual obligations:
        • Rendering advice to the Presiding Officer as well as the House on all matters relating to the running of the House and its Committees and
        • Being the Secretary-General of the Secretariat of the House. 
      • In the latter role, he acts as the head of the administration.
    • Position of Secretary-Generals: The position was earlier equivalent to the post of the Secretary of the Government of India.
      • But considering its importance in 1990, the pay scale, position and status of the post of Secretary-General was made equivalent to that of the post of the Cabinet Secretary in the Government of India.

    Source: TH