Missing Deputy Speaker in Parliament

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    In Context

    • Over three years after the present Lok Sabha first met, the position of Deputy Speaker still remains vacant.

    Presiding officers of Lok Sabha

    • Speaker & Deputy Speaker:
      • There are two presiding officers for the Lok Sabha, namely the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, who are elected by the members of the House. 
    • Constitutional provisions:
      • Under Article 93 of the Constitution, as soon as the House meets after the election these two presiding officers are elected one after the other. 
        • Article 178 contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a state.
    • Officers of Parliament:
      • The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are described in the Constitution as officers of Parliament, which signifies their importance in the parliamentary system.

    About the Deputy Speaker 

    • Origin:
    • The history of the office of Deputy Speaker goes back to the government of India Act of 1919 when he was called Deputy President as the Speaker was known as the president of the central legislative assembly. 
    • Functions:
      • Although the main functions of a Deputy Speaker were to preside over the sittings of the assembly in the absence of the Speaker and chair the select committees etc., the position was considered necessary to share the responsibility of running the House with the Speaker and guide the nascent committees.
    • Post independence:
      • This tradition was continued after Independence, when a Deputy Speaker was elected to the chair, besides the Speaker, the meetings of the Constituent Assembly (Legislative)
        • The first Speaker was G V Mavalankar and the first Deputy Speaker was M Ananthasayanam Ayyangar who was elected by the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) 
      • Thereafter, every Lok Sabha had a Deputy Speaker who would be elected after a few days of the election of the Speaker.
    • Who can be chosen as a deputy speaker?
      • Choosing an Opposition member as the Deputy Speaker has been, by and large, followed as a healthy convention. 
      • But if a government does not favour an Opposition member for political reasons, it is free to choose a member from its own party.
    • Election of deputy speaker:
      • President is not required to fix the election date:
        • The date of election of the Speaker is decided by the President who needs to go by the advice of the Union cabinet which, in fact, chooses the date. 
        • In the case of the Deputy Speaker, there is no constitutional requirement for him to wait for the advice of the Union cabinet in fixing the date of election of the Deputy Speaker. 
      • Mandate to Speaker:
        • As per Rule 8 of the Rules and Procedure of Lok Sabha it is the Speaker who has to fix the date of the election of the Deputy Speaker. 
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        • Once the date is fixed, any member can propose the name of any other member through a motion for the consideration of the House. The House can then proceed to elect its Deputy Speaker.
        • The practice followed so far has been to elect the Speaker after the oath-taking. 
        • Motion:
          • The Deputy Speaker is elected once a motion proposing his name is carried in the House.
          • Thereafter, within a few days, the Deputy Speaker is also elected. Once elected, the Deputy Speaker usually continues in office for the entire duration 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.
    • Powers & Functions:
      • Article 95(1) says “While the office of Speaker is vacant, the duties of the office shall be performed by the Deputy 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.
      • No appeal:
        • Although the Deputy Speaker gets to exercise these powers only in the absence of the Speaker his decisions are final and binding when he gives a ruling. 
        • It has been repeatedly held that no appeal lies to the Speaker against a ruling given by the Deputy Speaker.
      • Presiding committees:
        • In addition to presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker chaired committees both inside and outside of Parliament. 
    • Significance of the position:
      • The Deputy Speaker ensures the continuity of the Speaker’s 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

    Issue of non-election

    • Lok Sabha:
      • In the present Lok Sabha, the House has not elected a Deputy Speaker even after three years and seven months of its term are over. 
      • The non-election of the Deputy Speaker has now reached the Supreme Court, which has reportedly sent notice to the Union government.
    • State Assemblies:
      • The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and five states — Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand — over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.
    • Centre’s position:
      • The Treasury benches have maintained there is no “immediate requirement” for a Deputy Speaker as “bills are being passed and discussions are being held” as normal in the House. 
      • A Minister argued that “there is a panel of nine members — senior, experienced and selected from different parties — who can act as chairpersons to assist the Speaker to run the House”.
    • Judiciary’s intervention:
      • Courts usually don’t 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.”
      • However, experts said that the courts do have jurisdiction to at least inquire into why there has been no election to the post of Deputy Speaker since the Constitution does envisage an election “as soon as may be”.

    Way ahead

    • Article 93 contains a mandatory provision that needs to be carried out by the House.
    • In the present circumstances, the post of Deputy Speaker is desirable to maintain neutrality and smooth functioning of the Parliament.

     

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Analyse the significance of the position of deputy speaker in Lok Sabha. How is the trend of non-election of the Deputy Speaker in Lok Sabha & state assemblies is hampering the neutrality of the house?