LEADERS IN PARLIAMENT
Under the Rules of Lok Sabha, the ‘Leader of the House’ means the prime minister, if he is a member
of the Lok Sabha, or a minister who is a member of the Lok Sabha and is nominated by the prime
minister to function as the Leader of the House. There is also a ‘Leader of the House’ in the Rajya
Sabha. He is a minister and a member of the Rajya Sabha and is nominated by the prime minister to
function as such. The leader of the house in either House is an important functionary and exercises
direct influence on the conduct of business. He can also nominate a deputy leader of the House. The
same functionary in USA is known as the ‘majority leader’.
Leader of the Opposition
In each House of Parliament, there is the ‘Leader of the Opposition’. The leader of the largest
Opposition party having not less than one-tenth seats of the total strength of the House is recognised
as the leader of the Opposition in that House. In a parliamentary system of government, the leader of
the opposition has a significant role to play. His main functions are to provide a constructive
criticism of the policies of the government and to provide an alternative government. Therefore, the
leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were accorded statutory recognition in
- They are also entitled to the salary, allowances and other facilities equivalent to that of a
cabinet minister. It was in 1969 that an official leader of the opposition was recognised for the first
time. The same functionary in USA is known as the ‘minority leader’.
The British political system has an unique institution called the ‘Shadow Cabinet’. It is formed by the
Opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial
offices. In this shadow cabinet, almost every member in the ruling cabinet is ‘shadowed’ by a
corresponding member in the opposition cabinet. This shadow cabinet serves as the ‘alternate cabinet’ if there is change of government. That is why Ivor Jennings described the leader of Opposition as the ‘alternative Prime Minister’. He enjoys the status of a minister and is paid by the government.
Though the offices of the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition are not mentioned in
the Constitution of India, they are mentioned in the Rules of the House and Parliamentary Statute
respectively. The office of ‘whip’, on the other hand, is mentioned neither in the Constitution of India
nor in the Rules of the House nor in a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of the
Every political party, whether ruling or Opposition has its own whip in the Parliament. He is
appointed by the political party to serve as an assistant floor leader. He is charged with the
responsibility of ensuring the attendance of his party members in large numbers and securing their
support in favour of or against a particular issue. He regulates and monitors their beha-viour in the
Parliament. The members are supposed to follow the directives given by the whip. Otherwise,
disciplinary action can be taken.
SESSIONS OF PARLIAMENT
The president from time to time sumons each House of Parliament to meet. But, the maximum gap
between two sessions of Parliament cannot be more than six months. In other words, the Parliament
should meet at least twice a year. There are usually three sessions in a year, viz,
- the Budget Session (February to May);
- the Monsoon Session (July to September); and
- the Winter Session (November to December).
Table 22.1 Adjournment vs Prorogation
- It only terminates a sitting andnot a session of the House. 1. It not only terminates a sitting but also a session of the House.
- It is done by presiding officer of the House. 2. It is done by the president of India.
- It does not affect the bills or any other business pending before the House and the same can be resumed when the House meets again.
- It also does not affect the bills or any other business pending before the House. However, all pending notices (other than those for introducing bills) lapse on prorogation and fresh notices have to be given for the next session. In Britain, prorogation brings to an end all bills or any other business pending before the House.
A ‘session’ of Parliament is the period spanning between the first sitting of a House and its
prorogation (or dissolution in the case of the Lok Sabha). During a session, the House meets everyday
to transact business. The period spanning between the prorogation of a House and its reassembly in a
new session is called ‘recess’.
A session of Parliament consists of many meetings. Each meeting of a day consists of two sittings, that
is, a morning sitting from 11 am to 1 pm and post-lunch sitting from 2 pm to 6 pm. A sitting of
Parliament can be terminated by adjournment or adjournment sine die or prorogation or dissolution
(in the case of the Lok Sabha). An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time,
which may be hours, days or weeks.
Adjournment Sine Die
Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other
words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment
sine die. The power of adjournment as well as adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of
the House. He can also call a sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been
adjourned or at any time after the House has been adjourned sine die.
The presiding officer (Speaker or Chairman) declares the House adjourned sine die, when the
business of a session is completed. Within the next few days, the President issues a notification for
prorogation of the session. However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.
The specific differences between adjournment and prorogation are summarised in Table 22.1.
Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to
dissolution. Unlike a prorogation, a dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new
House is constituted after general elections are held. The dissolution of the Lok Sabha may take place
in either of two ways:
- Automatic dissolution, that is, on the expiry of its tenure of five years or the terms as extended
during a national emergency; or
- Whenever the President decides to dissolve the House, which he is authorised to do. Once the
Lok Sabha is dissolved before the completion of its normal tenure, the dissolution is
When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions
and so on pending before it or its committees lapse. They (to be pursued further) must be reintroduced
in the newly-constituted Lok Sabha. However, some pending bills and all pending assurances that are
to be examined by the Committee on Government Assurances do not lapse on the dissolution of the
Lok Sabha. The position with respect to lapsing of bills is as follows:
- A bill pending in the Lok Sabha lapses (whether originating in the Lok Sabha or transmitted to
it by the Rajya Sabha).
- A bill passed by the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha lapses.
- A bill not passed by the two Houses due to disagreement and if the president has notified the
holding of a joint sitting before the dissolution of Lok Sabha, does not lapse.
- A bill pending in the Rajya Sabha but not passed by the Lok Sabha does not lapse.
- A bill passed by both Houses but pending assent of the president does not lapse.
- A bill passed by both Houses but returned by the president for reconsideration of Houses does
Quorum is the minimum number of members required to be present in the House before it can transact
any business. It is one-tenth of the total number of members in each House including the presiding
officer. It means that there must be at least 55 members present in the Lok Sabha and 25 members
present in the Rajya Sabha, if any business is to be conducted. If there is no quorum during a meeting
of the House, it is the duty of the presiding officer either to adjourn the House or to suspend the
meeting until there is a quorum.
Voting in House
All matters at any sitting of either House or joint sitting of both the Houses are decided by a majority
of votes of the members present and voting, excluding the presiding officer. Only a few matters,
which are specifically mentioned in the Constitution like impeachment of the President, amendment of
the Constitution, removal of the presiding officers of the Parliament and so on, require special
majority, not ordinary majority.
The presiding officer of a House does not vote in the first instance, but exercises a casting vote in the
case of an equality of votes. The proceedings of a House are to be valid irrespective of any
unauthorised voting or participation or any vacancy in its membership.
Language in Parliament
The Constitution has declared Hindi and English to be the languages for transacting business in the
Parliament. However, the presiding officer can permit a member to address the House in his mothertongue.
In both the Houses, arrangements are made for simultaneous translation. Though English was
to be discontinued as a floor language after the expiration of fifteen years from the commencement of
the Constitution (that is, in 1965), the Official Languages Act (1963) allowed English to be continued
along with Hindi.
Rights of Ministers and Attorney General
In addition to the members of a House, every minister and the attorney general of India have the right
to speak and take part in the proceedings of either House, any joint sitting of both the Houses and any
committee of Parliament of which he is a member, without being entitled to vote. There are two
reasons underlying this constitutional provision:
- A minister can participate in the proceedings of a House, of which he is not a member. In
other words, a minister belonging to the Lok Sabha can participate in the proceedings of the
Rajya Sabha and vice-versa.
- A minister, who is not a member of either House, can participate in the proceedings of both
the Houses. It should be noted here that a person can remain a minister for six months, without
being a member of either House of Parliament.
It refers to the last session of the existing Lok Sabha, after a new Lok Sabha has been elected. Those
members of the existing Lok Sabha who could not get re-elected to the new Lok Sabha are called