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Legislative procedure in Parliament

Study Material > Polity

Legislative procedure in Parliament

  • The legislative procedure is identical in both the Houses of Parliament. Every bill has to pass through the same stages in each House.
  • A bill is a legislative proposal brought before the House for its approval and it becomes an act or law when duly enacted.
  • Bills are of two kinds:
    1. Public Bills: Bills initiated by Ministers are called Government Bills.
    2. Private Bills: Bills initiated by members who are not ministers are known as Private Members Bills.
  • Accordding to their content, Bills may further be classified broadly into:
    1. Ordinary bills, which are concerned with any matter other than financial subjects.
    2. Money bills, which are concerned with the financial matters like taxation, public expenditure,etc.
    3. Financial bills, which are also concerned with financial matters (but are different from money bills).
    4. Constitution amendment bills, which are concerned with the amendment of the provisions of the Constitution
  • Constitution has mentioned different procedures for the enactment of all the four types of bills. We will consider them one by one.
  • Legislative procedure for Ordinary Bill:
    1. First Reading of the the Bill:
      1. An Ordinary bill can be introduced in either House of Parliament.
      2. An Ordinary Bill can be introduced either by Minister or by a private member.
      3. It is necessary for the member-in-charge of the Bill to ask for leave to introduce the Bill. If leave is granted by the House, the Bill is introduced. This stage is known as the First Reading of the Bill.
      4. No discussion on the bill takes place at this stage. Later, the bill is published in the Gazette of India. The introduction of the bill and its publication in the Gazette constitute the first reading of the bill.
      5. After a Bill has been introduced, presiding Officer of the concerned House can refers the Bill to the concerned Standing Committee.
    2. Second Reading of the Bill:
      1. The Second reading consists of detailed scrutiny of the Bill and Bill assumes its final shape. In this stage the consideration of Bill is in two stage.
      2. First Stage of Second reading consists of general discussionon the Bill.
      3. At this stage it is open to the House to refer the Bill to a Select Committee of the House or a Joint Committee of the two Houses or to circulate it for the purpose of eliciting opinion thereon or to straight away take into consideration.
      4. Second Stage of this Reading consists of clause by clause consideration of the Bill as introduced or as reported by Select/Joint Committee
      5. Discussion takes place on each clause of the Bill and amendments to clauses can be moved at this stage.
      6. The amendments become part of the Bill if they are accepted by a majority of members present and voting
    3. Third Reading of the Bill:
      1. At this stage, the debate is confined to the acceptance or rejection of the bill as a whole and no amendments are allowed, as the general principles underlying the bill have already been scrutinised during the stage of second reading.
      2. If the majority of members present and voting accept the bill, the bill is regarded as passed by the House. Thereafter, the bill is authenticated by the presiding officer of the House and transmitted to the second House for consideration and approval.
      3. A bill is deemed to have been passed by the Parliament only when both the Houses have agreed to it, either with or without amendments.
      4. In passing an ordinary Bill, a simple majority of members present and voting is necessary.
    4. Bill in the Second House:
      1. In the second House also, the bill passes through all the three stages, that is, first reading, second reading and third reading. There are four alternatives before this House:
        1. It may pass the bill as sent by the first house (ie, without amendments);
        2. It may pass the bill with amendments and return it to the first House for reconsideration;
        3. It may reject the bill altogether; and
        4. It may not take any action and thus keep the bill pending.
      2. If the second House passes the bill without any amendments or the first House accepts the amendments suggested by the second House, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses and the same is sent to the president for his assent. On the other hand, if the first House rejects the amendments suggested by the second House or the second House rejects the bill altogether or the second House does not take any action for six months, a deadlock is deemed to have taken place. To resolve such a deadlock, the president can summon a joint sitting of the two Houses. If the majority of members present and voting in the joint sitting approves the bill, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.
    5. Assent of the President:
      1. Every bill after being passed by both Houses of Parliament either singly or at a joint sitting, is presented to the president for his assent. There are three alternatives before the president:
        1. he may give his assent to the bill; or
        2. he may withhold his assent to the bill; or
        3. he may return the bill for reconsideration of the Houses.
      2. If the president gives his assent to the bill, the bill becomes an act and is placed on the Statute Book.
      3. If the President withholds his assent to the bill, it ends and does not become an act. If the President returns the bill for reconsideration and if it is passed by both the Houses again with or without amendments and presented to the President for his assent, the president must give his assent to the bill.
  • Introduction and Legislative procedure of a Money Bill: In Article 110 of our Constitution following definitions and provisions are mentioned.
  • A Bill is deemed to be a Money Bill if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
    1. the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
    2. regulation of borrowing by the government;
    3. custody of the Consolidated Fund or Contingency Fund of India, and payments into or withdrawals from these Funds;
    4. appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
    5. declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure;
    6. receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State; or
    7. any matter incidental to any of the matters specified in sub-clauses (a) to (f).
  • But a Bill shall not be deemed to be a Money Bill by reason only that it provides for the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment of fees for licences or fees for services rendered, or by reason that it provides for the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax by any local authority or body for local purposes.
  • According to Article 110 (3) “if any question arises whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final”. This means that once the Speaker has certified a Bill as a Money Bill, its nature cannot be questioned in a court of law, in the Houses of Parliament, or even by the President.
  • A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and that too on the recommendation of the president. Every such bill is considered to be a government bill and can be introduced only by a minister.
  • After a money bill is passed by the Lok Sabha, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Rajya Sabha has restricted powers with regard to a money bill. As:
    1. It cannot reject or amend a money bill. It can only make the recommendations.
    2. It must return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, with or without recommendations.
    3. The Lok Sabha can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha.
    4. If the Lok Sabha accepts any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the modified form.
    5. If the Lok Sabha does not accept any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha without any change.
    6. If the Rajya Sabha does not return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha.
  • Thus, the Lok Sabha has more powers than Rajya Sabha with regard to a money bill. On the other hand, both the Houses have equal powers with regard to an ordinary bill.
  • Finally, when a money bill is presented to the president, he may either give his assent to the bill or withhold his assent to the bill but cannot return the bill for reconsideration of the Houses. Normally,the president gives his assent to a money bill as it is introduced in the Parliament with his prior permission.

Finance Bill

  • Financial Bills can be further classified as Financial Bills Categories A and B. Category A Bills contain provisions dealing with any of the matters specified in sub-clauses (a) to (f) of clause (1) of article 110 and other matters and Category B Bills involve expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Financial Bill Category A can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha on the recommendation of the President.  However once it has been passed by the Lok Sabha, it is like an ordinary Bill and there is no restriction on the powers of the Rajya Sabha on such Bills.
  • Financial Bill Category B and Ordinary Bills can be introduced in either House of Parliament.

Constitutional Amendment Bill

  • An Constitutional Amendment Bill can be initiated in either House of Parliament and not in the state legislatures.
  • The bill can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member and does not require prior permission of the president.
  • The bill must be passed in each House by a special majority, that is, a majority (that is, more than 50 per cent) of the total membership of the House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting.
  • Each House must pass the bill separately. In case of a disagreement between the two Houses, there is no provision for holding a joint sitting of the two Houses for the purpose of deliberation and passage of the bill.
  • If the bill seeks to amend the federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of the House present and voting.
  • After duly passed by both the Houses of Parliament and ratified by the state legislatures, where necessary, the bill is presented to the president for assent.
  • The president must give his assent to the bill. He can neither withhold his assent to the bill nor return the bill for reconsideration of the Parliament.
  • After the president’s assent, the bill becomes an Act (i.e., a constitutional amen-dment act) and the Constitution stands amended in accordance with the terms of the Act.

Joint Sitting

  • To resolve deadlock between the Two Houses, in case of an ordinary legislation, the Constitution provides for the Joint Sitting of both Houses.
  • According to Article 108 (1)
  • If after a Bill has been passed by one House and transmitted to the other House
    1. the Bill is rejected by the other House; or
    2. the Houses have finally disagreed as to the amendments to be made in the Bill; or
    3. more than six months elapse from the date of the reception of the Bill by the other House without the Bill being passed by it the President may, unless the Bill has lapsed by reason of a dissolution of the House of the People, notify to the Houses by message if they are sitting or by public notification if they are not sitting, his intention to summon them to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill: Provided that nothing in this clause shall apply to a Money Bill.
  • In the above situations, the president can summon both the Houses to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the bill.
  • It must be noted here that the provision of joint sitting is applicable to ordinary bills or financial bills only and not to money bills or Constitutional amendment bills.
  • If the bill (under dispute) has already lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, no joint sitting can be summoned. But, the joint sitting can be held if the Lok Sabha is dissolved after the President has notified his intention to summon such a sitting (as the bill does not lapse in this case).
  • The Speaker of Lok Sabha presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses and the Deputy Speaker, in his absence. If the Deputy Speaker is also absent from a joint sitting, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha presides. If he is also absent, such other person as may be determined by the members present at the joint sitting, presides over the meeting. It is clear that the Chairman of Rajya Sabha does not preside over a joint sitting as he is not a member of either House of Parliament. The quorum to constitute a joint sitting is one-tenth of the total number of members of the two Houses. The joint sitting is governed by the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and not of Rajya Sabha. If the bill in dispute is passed by a majority of the total number of members of both the Houses present and voting in the joint sitting, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses. Normally, the Lok Sabha with greater number wins the battle in a joint sitting.
  • Issues in Joint Sitting are decided by a majority of the total number of members of both Houses present and Voting.
  • The Joint sitting is held in the Central Hall of Parliament House.
  • As regards a Constitution Amendment Bill, it has been provided in the Constitution that such a Bill has to be passed by the specific majority, as prescribed under Article 368 of the Constitution, by both Houses.
  • There is, therefore, no provision for resolving a deadlock between the two Houses in regard to a Constitution Amendment Bill.
  • So far Joint sitting have been held thrice in 1961, 1978, and 2002. They are:
    1. The first Joint Sitting was held in 1961 to consider amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Bill 1959.
    2. The Second Joint Sitting was held in 1978 for the passage of banking Service Commission (repeal) Ordinance, 1977;
    3. The third Joint Sitting was held for the passage of prevention of terrorism Bill.

 


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