Election of Deputy Speaker

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    In Context

    • Hardoi MLA Nitin Agrawal has been elected Deputy Speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, which has barely five months left in its tenure.

    About 

    • The developments raise several questions and refocus attention on the 17th Lok Sabha which remains without a Deputy Speaker for more than two years.
    • A petition before the Delhi High Court has argued that the delay in the election of the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker violates Article 93 of the Constitution.
    • There is no precedent of a court forcing the legislature to elect the Deputy Speaker. 
      • However, experts said the courts do have jurisdiction to at least enquire why there has been no election to the post of Deputy Speaker since the Constitution does envisage an election “as soon as maybe”.
      • In general, the courts do not intervene in the procedural conduct of Parliament. 
        • Article 122(1) says: “The validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.”

    About Deputy Speaker

    • Article 93  and Article 178 of the 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.
        • Article 178 contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a state
      • Constitutional experts point out that both Articles 93 and 178 use the words “shall” and “as soon as may be” — indicating that not only is the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker mandatory, it must be held at the earliest.
    • 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 Deputy Speaker usually takes place in the second session, even though there is no bar on having this election too in the first session of the new Lok Sabha/Assembly. 
        • In Lok Sabha, the election of Deputy Speaker is governed by Rule 8 of The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
          • According to the Rule, the election “shall be held on such date as the Speaker may fix”, and the Deputy Speaker is elected once a motion proposing his name is carried.
        • There are similar provisions in the State Legislative Assembly Rules.
        • Once elected, the Deputy Speaker usually continues in office until the dissolution of 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.
      • In general, the Deputy Speaker has the same powers as the Speaker when presiding over a sitting of the House. 
        • All references to the Speaker in the Rules are deemed to be references to the Deputy Speaker when he presides.
    • 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 of 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. 
    • Vacate: Under Article 94 (Article 179 for state legislatures), the Speaker or Deputy Speaker “shall vacate his office if he ceases to be a member of the House of the People”.
      • They may also resign (to each other), or “maybe removed from…office by a resolution of the House of the People passed by a majority of all the then members of the House”

    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.

    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: IE