Question – The speaker plays an important role in advancing democracy by creating a balance between good government and maximum personal freedom. Comment with reference to India. – 3 August 2021
Answer – Good government
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India had said that, “In a parliamentary democracy, the Speaker represents the dignity and independence of the House and because the House represents the country, it in a way becomes a symbol of the freedom and independence of the country”.
- The Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly is elected by the members of the respective House from amongst themselves. The Speaker is the custodian of the powers and privileges of the entire House, its members and its committees.
- Through this, the work of maintaining discipline and decorum in the house is done for the conduct and regulation of the proceedings of the house.
- In order to maintain the impartiality of the House, it is ensured by the Speaker that sufficient time is given to the Parliament, especially the Opposition, to ensure accountability.
- Adjourns the House, and for lack of quorum suspends the sitting of the House.
- It decides whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, and its decision on this is final.
- Decides on the question of disqualification of a member arising on the ground of defection. (However, since the KihotoHollohan case (1992) such a decision by the Speaker is not outside the scope of judicial review}.
- He supervises the appointment and functioning of the chairpersons of all the parliamentary committees of the Lok Sabha. He himself is the Chairman of the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee and the General Sponsorship Committee of the Lok Sabha.
Constitutional Provisions: Good government
- Article 93 of the Constitution of India provides for the appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, while Article 178 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
- Article 94 of the Constitution has made provisions for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha to become vacant, resign or be removed from office. At the same time, provisions have been made in Article 179 of the Constitution related to the vacancy, resignation or removal of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
- Article 95 lays down the powers of the Deputy Speaker or any other person to act or perform the duties of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. At the same time, under Article 180, the powers of the Deputy Speaker or any other person have been mentioned to act as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly or to discharge his duties.
- According to Article 96 (pertaining to Lok Sabha) and Article 181 (pertaining to Legislative Assembly) of the Constitution, if a motion to remove the Speaker of the House is under consideration, he cannot preside over the House.
- Article 97 of the Constitution provides for the salary and allowances of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and Article 186 of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
However in recent times, the office of Speaker of Lok Sabha has been criticized for not being as fair and effective (as it was envisioned to be a Good government):
- Deciding on a case of defection by the Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, and that too while a notice of resolution to remove the Speaker was pending. In this matter the Supreme Court had to intervene and it was directed that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha should refrain from adjudicating in such matters.
- The Supreme Court has allowed a petition challenging the decision of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to approve the Aadhaar Bill, 2016 as a money bill. It is argued that the Rajya Sabha should also be included in the decision-making process to create a meaningful debate and consensus on matters of a Bill that covers a wide range of concerns such as privacy, data security, etc.
- Parliamentary stalemate has become a common practice, while Speakers seem to be unable to conduct parliamentary proceedings smoothly and allegations of bias have become common.
The Presidential office was envisaged by the framers of our constitution to perform its duties honestly and impartially but, its office has been progressively changed to suit the political interests and the requirements of the ruling party. Judicial review is also used in exceptional circumstances. There is a need for a permanent institutional solution in this context. In the case of money bills the British model of appointing a committee of two senior legislators to assist the Speaker needs to be considered. A parliamentary tradition has developed in Britain, where an MP who is elected as Speaker resigns from the party concerned. This lends credibility to their impartiality.
Both the government and the opposition need to operate cooperatively so that the Parliament can function smoothly and the Speaker does not often face difficult and complicated situations.At the same time, the Speaker also needs to uphold the democratic ethos, presiding over a respected office, and must appear neutral in his actions and objectives.“Not only must justice be done, but it must be clearly and unquestionably shown that justice has been done. This will further strengthen the confidence of the people in parliamentary democracy.