The Office of Speaker of Lok Sabha
Article 178 and 179 of the Indian constitution defines the Speaker, who presides over the highest legislative body called the Lok Sabha. It is the endeavour for the speaker to oversee the day-to-day functioning of the House of Parliament. Constitutional provisions with respect to the office of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the house are enlisted in Articles 93, 94, 95, and 96 of the Indian Constitution. Appointment of the speaker is one of the foremost acts of any fresh Lok Sabha that has been constituted.
Appointment of Speaker:
The Speaker, as well as the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, are elected within the lower house on the basis of a simple majority. The simple majority refers to voting in the favour by more than 50 per cent of parliamentarians present. There are no specific qualifications required in order to become a Speaker. The major prerequisites for a speaker are as follows:
- He/she must be a citizen of India.
- People of unsound minds are barred from such a position.
- He/she should be above 25 years of age.
- People holding any profitable office under the Central or the State Government are prevented from the position of Speaker.
- The Speaker holds the office as long as the House survives. When the term of Lok Sabha members comes to an end, the Speaker’s term of office also ends. However, the speaker is eligible to get re-elected in the next term of the lower house.
- The Speaker can deliberately end his/her term beforehand through a formal resignation handed over to the Deputy Speaker. He/she can also be impeached from the position due to the below-mentioned reasons.
- He/she may be removed as a Member of Parliament. Losing this membership also requires withdrawal from the position of Speaker.
- The Speaker may also be removed by passing a resolution in the House. The notice of such a resolution is passed prior to 14 days minimum. If such a resolution is supported by majority members (through the concept of simple majority), the Speaker has to retrieve from his/her position. It is also important to note that during the course of impeachment, the Speaker is prevented from presiding over the lower house. However, he/she is welcome to take part in the general proceedings of the house.
Roles and Responsibilities:
A. Encouraging peaceful legislation
- The Speaker may be deemed as the central representative of the House of Parliament. He/she plays a pivotal role in maintaining the decorum of the House. The Speaker is vested with adequate powers to ensure smooth and peaceful conduct in the assembly of parliamentarians.
- The Speaker, in the discharge of his/her assigned duties, is expected to take major procedural decisions in the House. However, the prioritized task is to primarily maintain harmony among the members of Lok Sabha
B. Nature of Bill
The Speaker has the final say on whether the bill produced in the lower house is an ordinary bill or a money bill. The nature of the bill has an impact on whether the upper house or Rajya Sabha may deliberate recommendations on the concerned subject. When the Speaker determines it to be a money bill, Rajya Sabha is bound to accept the bill or give certain unbinding recommendations to the lower house for the same.
C. Resolving Conflicts and Tensions
In cases of conflicts between Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, a joint session of Parliament is called upon by the President enforcing Article 108 of the Indian Constitution. The joint sitting is presided over by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. Article 108 provides for as and when the joint sitting is summoned. When a bill other than the money bill or constitutional amendment bill is passed in one house and rejected by another, then a joint sitting takes place.
D. Disqualification of Parliamentarians
With the powers vested under the 52nd amendment, the Speaker holds the privilege to disqualify any member on the grounds of defection. This process of disqualification is initially carried out by filing a petition by any other member of the house highlighting the defection of any political representative.
E. Committee of Privileges
This committee consists of 15 members nominated by the Speaker who investigate questions pertaining to breach of privilege by any member of the House of the People. Such an investigation is referred to the committee by the Speaker. The committee sends its report to the Speaker who may pass the final orders on the very issue.
F. Chairmanship of other committees
The Speaker also holds the chairmanship of the following committee
- Business Advisory Committee– The purpose of the 15 member committee is to decide the time slot and recommend the subject of discussion in the parliament.
- General Purposes Committee– The primary aim of the committee is to advise on general matters that are not covered by any other committee.
- Rules Committee– This committee prescribes a code of conduct and puts forward advising amendments that may help in improving the decorum of the House.
Another important responsibility delegated to the Speaker is to appoint the chairman of all other Parliamentary Committees.
G. Regulating Discussions in the House:
The Speaker is often known to act as the guardian of rights and privileges of the House. It is solely through the Speaker that the decisions of the house are communicated to outside authorities. In the regulation of discussions, the speaker decides which member would speak and for how long. Even the admissibility of the question of the discussion is determined by the Speaker of the house.
The office of the Speaker is thus a dynamic institution. It is regarded as a constitutional office since it is safeguarded by the constitutional provisions. The holistic role of the Speaker adds to the foundational strength of democracy. The role of the Speaker in Lok Sabha is indispensable.