The Parliament is the legislative organ of the Union government. It occupies a pre-eminent and central position in the Indian democratic political system due to adoption of the parliamentary form of government, also known as ‘Westminster’ model of government. Articles 79 to 122 in Part V of the Constitution deal with the organisation, composition, duration, officers, procedures, privileges, powers and so on of the Parliament.
ORGANISATION OF PARLIAMENT
Under the Constitution, the Parliament of India consists of three parts viz, the President, the Council
of States and the House of the People. In 1954, the Hindi names ‘Rajya Sabha’ and ‘Lok Sabha’ were
adopted by the Council of States and the House of People respectively. The Rajya Sabha is the Upper
House (Second Chamber or House of Elders) and the Lok Sabha is the Lower House (First Chamber
or Popular House). The former represents the states and union territories of the Indian Union, while
the latter represents the people of India as a whole.
the President of India is not a member of either House of Parliament but part of the Parliament. – a bill passed
by both the Houses of Parliament – President’s assent.
COMPOSITION OF THE TWO HOUSES
Composition of Rajya Sabha
At present, the Rajya Sabha has 245 members. Of these, 229 members represent the states, 4 members
represent the union territories and 12 members are nominated by the president.
- Representation of States
The seats are allotted to the states in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of population. Hence, the number of representatives varies from state to state. For example, Uttar Pradesh has 31 members while Tripura has 1 member only. However, in USA, all states are given equal representation in the Senate irrespective of their
population. USA has 50 states and the Senate has 100 members—2 from each state.
- Representation of Union Territories The representatives of each union territory in the Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by members of an electroral college specially constituted for the purpose.
- Nominated Members The president nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from people who have special knowledge or practical experience in art, literature, science and social service.
Composition of Lok Sabha
The maximum strength of the Lok Sabha is fixed at 552. Out of this, 530 members are to be the representatives of the states, 20 members are to be the representatives of the union territories and members are to be nominated by the president from the Anglo-Indian community.
At present, the Lok Sabha has 545 members. Of these, 530 members represent the states, 13 members represent the union territories and 2 Anglo-Indian members are nominated by the President
- Representation of States -directly elected by the people the territorial constituencies in the states. The election is based on the principle of universal adult franchise. Every Indian citizen who is above 18 years of age and who is not disqualified under the provisions of the Constitution
- Representation of Union Territories The Constitution has empowered the Parliament to
prescribe the manner of choosing the representatives of the union territories in the Lok Sabha.
Accordingly, the Parliament has enacted the Union Territories (Direct Election to the House of the
People) Act, 1965, by which the members of Lok Sabha from the union territories are also chosen by
- Nominated Members The president can nominate two members from the Anglo-Indian community
if the community is not adequately represented in the Lok Sabha. Originally, this provision was to operate till 1960 but has been extended till 2020 by the 95th Amendment Act, 2009.
SYSTEM OF ELECTIONS TO LOK SABHA
- Each state is allotted a number of seats in the Lok Sabha in such a manner that the ratio between that number and its population is the same for all states. This provision does not apply to a state having a population of less than six millions.
- Each state is divided into territorial constituencies in such a manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it is the same throughoutthe state. In brief, the Constitution ensures that there is uniformity of representation in two respects: (a) between the different states, and (b) between the different constituencies in the same state. The expression ‘population’ means the population as ascertainted at the preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published.
Readjustment after each Census
After every census, a readjustment is to be made in (a) allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha to the states, and (b) division of each state into territorial constituencies. Parliament is empowered to determine the authority and the manner in which it is to be made.
Reservation of Seats for SCs and STs
Though the Constitution has abandoned the system of communal representation, it provides for the reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha on the basis ofpopulation ratios.
Proportional Representation not Adopted
Though the Constitution has adopted the system of proportional representation in the case of Rajya Sabha, it has not preferred the same system in the case of Lok Sabha. Instead, it has adopted thesystem of territorial representation for the election of members to the Lok Sabha. Under territorial representation, every member of the legislature represents a geographical area known as a constituency.
- Difficulty for the voters to understand the system (which is complicated) due to low literacy
scale in the country.
- Unsuitability to the parliamentary government due to the tendency of the system to multiply
political parties leading to instability in government.
Additionally, the system of proportional representation has the following demerits:
- It is highly expensive.
- It does not give any scope for organising by-elections.
- It eliminates intimate contacts between voters and representatives.
- It promotes minority thinking and group interests.
- It increases the significance of party system and decreases that of voter.
DURATION OF TWO HOUSES
Duration of Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha (first constituted in 1952) is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and not subject to dissolution. However, one-third of its members retire every second year. Their seats are filled up by fresh elections and presidential nominations at the beginning of every third year. The retiring members are eligible for re-election and renomination any number of times. The Constitution has not fixed the term of office of members of the Rajya Sabha and left it to theParliament. Accordingly, the Parliament in the Representation of the People Act (1951) provided thatthe term of office of a member of the Rajya Sabha shall be six years. The act also empowered the president of India to curtail the term of members chosen in the first Rajya Sabha. In the first batch, itwas decided by lottery as to who should retire. Further, the act also authorised the President to make provisions to govern the order of retirement of the members of the Rajya Sabha6.
Duration of Lok Sabha
Unlike the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha is not a continuing chamber. Its normal term is five years from the date of its first meeting after the general elections, after which it automatically dissolves.However, the President is authorised to dissolve the Lok Sabha at any time even before thecompletion of five years and this cannot be challenged in a court of law.Further, the term of the Lok Sabha can be extended during the period of national emergency be a law of Parliament for one year at a time for any length of time. However, this extension cannot continue beyond a period of six months after the emergency has ceased to operate.
MEMBERSHIP OF PARLIAMENT
Qualifications 1. He must be a citizen of India.
- He must make and subscribe to an oath or affirmation before the person authorised by the election commission for this purpose. In his oath or affirmation, he swears
(a) To bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India
(b) To uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India
- He must be not less than 30 years of age in the case of the Rajya Sabha and not less than 25 years of age in the case of the Lok Sabha.
- He must posses other qualifications prescribed by Parliament. The Parliament has laid down the following additional qualifications in the Representation of People Act (1951).
- He must be registered as an elector for a parliamentary constituency. This is same in the case of both, the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. The requirement that a candidate contesting an election to the Rajya Sabha from a particular state should be an elector in that particular state was dispensed with in 2003. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of this change.
- He must be a member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe in any state or union territory, if he wants to contest a seat reserved for them. However, a member of scheduled castes or scheduled tribes can also contest a seat not reserved for them.
Under the Constitution, a person shall be disqualified for being elected as a member of Parliament:
- if he holds any office of profit under the Union or state government (except that of a minister or any other office exempted by Parliament).
- if he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
- if he is an undischarged insolvent.
- if he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state or is
under any acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign state; and
- if he is so disqualified under any law made by Parliament. The Parliament has laid down the following additional disqualifications in the Representation of People Act (1951):
- He must not have been found guilty of certain election offences or corrupt practices in the elections.
- He must not have been convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more
years. But, the detention of a person under a preventive detention law is not a disqualification.
- He must not have failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time.
- He must not have any interest in government contracts, works or services.
- He must not be a director or managing agent nor hold an office of profit in a corporation in which the government has at least 25 per cent share.
- He must not have been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the State.
- He must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery.
- He must not have been punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati.
On the question whether a member is subject to any of the above disqualifications, the president’s decision is final. However, he should obtain the opinion of the election commission and act accordingly.
Disqualification on Ground of Defection
- if he voluntary gives up the membership of the political party on whose ticket he is elected to the House;
- if he votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction given by his political party;
- if any independently elected member joins any political party; and
- if any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.
Vacating of Seats
In the following cases, a member of Parliament vacates his seat.
- Double Membership A person cannot be a member of both Houses of Parliament at the same time.
Thus, the Representation of People Act (1951) provides for the following:
(a) If a person is elected to both the Houses of Parliament, he must intimate within 10 days in which House he desires to serve. In default of such intimation, his seat in the Rajya Sabha becomes vacant.
(b) If a sitting member of one House is also elected to the other House, his seat in the first House
(c) If a person is elected to two seats in a House, he should exercise his option for one. Otherwise, both seats become vacant. Similarly, a person cannot be a member of both the Parliament and the state legislature at the same time. If a person is so elected, his seat in Parliament becomes vacant if he does not resign his seat in the state legislature within 14 days9.
- Disqualification If a member of Parliament becomes subject to any of the disqualifications specified in the Constitution, his seat becomes vacant. Here, the list of disqualifications also include the disqualification on the grounds of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
- Resignation A member may resign his seat by writing to the Chairman of Rajya Sabha or Speaker of Lok Sabha, as the case may be. The seat falls vacant when the resignation is accepted. However, the Chairman/Speaker may not accept the resignation if he is satisfied that it is not voluntary or genuine.
- Absence A House can declare the seat of a member vacant if he is absent from all its meetings for a period of sixty days without its permission. In computing the period of sixty days, no account shall be taken of any period during which the House is prorogued or adjourned for more than four consecutive days.
- Other cases A member has to vacate his seat in the Parliament:
(a) if his election is declared void by the court;
(b) if he is expelled by the House;
(c) if he is elected to the office of President or Vice-President; and
(d) if he is appointed to the office of governor of a state.
If a disqualified person is elected to the Parliament, the Constitution lays down no procedure to declare the election void. This matter is dealt by the Representation of the People Act (1951), which enables the high court to declare an election void if a disqualified candidate is elected. The aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court against the order of the high court in this regard.
Oath or Affirmation
Every member of either House of Parliament, before taking his seat in the House, has to make and
subscribe to an oath or affirmation before the President or some person appointed by him for this
purpose. In his oath or affirmation, a member of Parliament swears:
- to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India;
- to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India; and
- to faithfully discharge the duty upon which he is about to enter.
Unless a member takes the oath, he cannot vote and participate in the proceedings of the House and does not become eligible to parliamentary privileges and immunities. A person is liable to a penalty of Rs 500 for each day he sits or votes as a member in a House in the following conditions:
- Before taking and subscribing to the prescribed oath or affirmation; or
- When he knows that he is not qualified or that he is disqualified for its membership; or
- When he knows that he is prohibited from sitting or voting in the House by virtue of any parliamentary law.
Salaries and Allowances
Members of either House of Parliament are entitled to receive such salaries and allowances as may be determined by Parliament, and there is no provision of pension in the Constitution. However, Parliament has provided pension to the members. In 1954, the Parliament enacted the Salaries, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act. In 2010, the Parliament increased the salary of members from ` 16,000 to ` 50,000 per month, the constituency allowance from ` 20,000 to ` 45,000 per month, the daily allowance from ` 1,000 to ` 2,000 for five years and office expenses allowance from ` 20,000 to ` 45,000 per month.
From 1976, the members are also entitled to a pension on a graduated scale for each five-year-term as members of either House of Parlia-ment. Besides, they are provided with travell- ing facilities, free accommodation, telephone, vehicle advance, medical facilities and so on. The salaries and allowances of the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha are also determined by Parliament. They are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and thus are not subject to the annual vote of Parliament.
In 1953, the Parliament enacted the Salaries and Allowances of Officers of Parliament Act. Under this Act, the Parliament has fixed the salaries as well as allowances of both the Speaker and the Chairman.
PRESIDING OFFICERS OF PARLIAMENT
Each House of Parliament has its own presiding officer. There is a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker for the Lok Sabha and a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman for the Rajya Sabha. A panel of chairpersons for the Lok Sabha and a panel of vice-chairpersons for the Rajya Sabha is also appointed.