Speaker of the Lok Sabha
The Office of the Speaker occupies a pivotal position in our parliamentary democracy. It has been said of the Office of the Speaker that while the members of Parliament represent the individual constituencies, the Speaker represents the full authority of the House itself. He symbolises the dignity and power of the House over which he is presiding. Therefore, it is expected that the holder of this Office of high dignity has to be one who can represent the House in all its manifestations. The responsibility entrusted to the Speaker is so onerous that he cannot afford to overlook any aspect of parliamentary life. His actions come under close scrutiny in the House and are also widely reported in the mass media. With the televising of proceedings of Parliament, the small screen brings to millions of households in the country the day-to-day developments in the House, making the Speaker’s task all the more important.
Even though the Speaker speaks rarely in the House, when he does, he speaks for the House as a whole. The Speaker is looked upon as the true guardian of the traditions of parliamentary democracy. His unique position is illustrated by the fact that he is placed very high in the Warrant of Precedence in our country, standing next only to the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister. In India, through the Constitution of the land, through the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and through the practices and conventions, adequate powers are vested in the Office of the Speaker to help him in the smooth conduct of the parliamentary proceedings and for protecting the independence and impartiality of the Office. The Constitution of India provides that the Speaker’s salary and allowances are not to be voted by Parliament and are to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
Term of Office
Speaker holds Office from the date of his election till immediately before the first meeting of the Lok Sabha after the dissolution of the one to which he was elected. He is eligible for re-election. On the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, although the Speaker ceases to be a member of the House, he does not vacate his Office. The Speaker may, at any time, resign from Office by writing under his hand to the Deputy Speaker. The Speaker can be removed from Office only on a resolution of the House passed by a majority of all the then members of the House. Such a resolution has to satisfy some conditions like: it should be specific with respect to the charges and it should not contain arguments, inferences, ironical expressions, imputations or defamatory statements, etc. Not only these, discussions should be confined to charges referred to in the resolution. It is also mandatory to give a minimum of 14 days’ notice of the intention to move the resolution.
Election of Speaker
In the Lok Sabha, the lower House of the Indian Parliament, both Presiding Officersâ€”the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker- are elected from among its members by a simple majority of members present and voting in the House. As such, no specific qualifications are prescribed for being elected the Speaker. The Constitution only requires that Speaker should be a member of the House. But an understanding of the Constitution and the laws of the country and the rules of procedure and conventions of Parliament is considered a major asset for the holder of the Office of the Speaker. The election of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is an important event in the life of the House. One of the first acts of a newly constituted House is to elect the Speaker. Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected the Speaker.
A healthy convention, however, has evolved over the years whereby the ruling party nominates its candidate after informal consultations with the Leaders of other Parties and Groups in the House. This convention ensures that once elected, the Speaker enjoys the respect of all sections of the House. There are also instances when members not belonging to the ruling party or coalition were elected to the Office of the Speaker. Once a decision on the candidate is taken, his name is normally proposed by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. If more than one notice is received, these are entered in the order of receipt. The Speaker pro tem presides over the sitting in which the Speaker is elected, if it is a newly constituted House. If the election falls later in the life of a Lok Sabha, the Deputy Speaker presides. The motions which are moved and duly seconded are put one by one in the order in which they are moved, and decided, if necessary, by division. If any motion is carried, the person presiding shall, without putting the latter motions, declare that the member proposed in the motion which has been carried has been chosen as the Speaker of the House. After the results are announced, the Speaker-elect is conducted to the Chair by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. He is then felicitated by Leaders of all Political Parties and Groups in the House to which he replies in a thanks-giving speech. And from then the new Speaker takes over.
Speaker in the Chair
In the Lok Sabha Chamber, the Speaker’s Chair is distinctively placed and, from his seat, he gets a commanding view of the entire House. Insofar as the proceedings are concerned, he is guided by the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. He also benefits from the Directions issued by his predecessors which are compiled periodically. Besides, he is assisted by the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha and senior officers of the Secretariat on parliamentary activities and on matters of practice and procedure. In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker discharges his functions. A member from the Panel of Chairmen presides over the House in the absence of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
The Speaker has extensive functions to perform in matters administrative, judicial and regulatory, falling under his domain. He enjoys vast authority under the Constitution and the Rules, as well as inherently. As the conventional head of the Lok Sabha and as its principal spokesman, the Speaker represents its collective voice. Of course, he is the ultimate arbiter and interpreter of those provisions which relate to the functioning of the House. His decisions are final and binding and ordinarily cannot be questioned, challenged or criticised.
Speaker’s Administrative Role
The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat which functions under his ultimate control and direction. The Speaker’s authority over the Secretariat staff of the House, its precincts and its security arrangements is supreme. All strangers, visitors and press correspondents are subject to his discipline and orders and any breach of order may be punished by means of exclusion from the precincts of the Parliament House or stoppage of admission tickets to the galleries for definite or indefinite period, or in more serious cases, dealt with as a contempt or breach of privilege. No alternation or addition can be made in the Parliament House and no new structure can be erected in the Parliament Estate without the Speaker’s permission.