The Presiding officers of Lok Sabha are the Speaker and Deputy Speaker as well as a panel of chairpersons. The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha and the principal spokesperson of the House. He acts as its representative, as a guardian of the powers and privileges of its members, the House as a whole, and its committees. So, it’s clear that the function performed by the Presiding Officers of the Lok Sabha is of great significance, especially in cases of defection. So in this article, we’ll be having a detailed deliberation about the presiding officers of Lok Sabha, their election, powers, and functions.
Presiding Officers of Lok Sabha
The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is elected by the members of the Lok Sabha from amongst its members as soon as may be, after the first sitting of the House. The date for such an election is fixed by the President of India.
In normal circumstances, the Speaker remains in office during the term of the L0k Sabha. However, there are certain situations where he may have to vacate his office before the expiry of the Lok Sabha, these are:
- if he ceases to be a member of Lok Sabha;
- if he resigns by writing to the Deputy Speaker; and
- if he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all then members of the Lok Sabha, after giving advance notice of 15 days.
During the consideration of the resolution of removal of the Speaker, he cannot preside over the House. However, he can be present, speak and take part in such proceedings and even vote in the first instance.
Powers and Functions
As stated earlier, the Speaker acts as a representative of the Lok Sabha and is the guardian of the powers and privileges of the members, the House as a whole, and its committees. The speaker is the principal spokesperson of the house and his decision on all parliamentary matters is final, hence, he enjoys the status of supreme authority within the House.
The powers and functions of the Speaker are derived from the Constitution of India, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha, and the Parliamentary Conventions. The powers and functions of the Presiding Officer of Lok Sabha are as follows:
- He is the final interpreter of the provisions of the (i) Constitution of India and (ii) the rules of procedure and conduct of the business of Lok Sabha and (iii) the Parliamentary precedents within the House.
- The primary responsibility of the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha is that he maintains order and decorum in the House for conducting its business and regulating its proceedings, moreover, he has final power in this regard.
- He is the authority that decides on the question of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha, on grounds of defection provided under the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. However, he is not the final authority in this regard, as the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that the decision of the Speaker in such cases is subject to Judicial Review.
- In case of a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament over a Bill, the President summons a joint session of the Parliament. In such a session, the presiding officers of Lok Sabha presides over the meeting.
- The Speaker appoints the chairman of all the Parliamentary Committees of the Lok Sabha and also supervises their functioning.
- The Speaker is the chairman of three Parliamentary Committees, the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee, and the General Purpose Committee.
- He has the power to adjourn the House in absence of a quorum.
*the quorum to constitute a meeting of the House is one-tenth of the total strength of the House.
- He does not vote in the first instance, however, in situations where the House is equally divided on an issue, i.e. there’s a tie, the speaker is entitled to vote. This provision ensures that there isn’t a deadlock in the House. This vote is known as the ‘casting vote.’
- The speaker decides whether a Bill is a money bill or not, and his decision on this question is final.
- He can allow for a secret sitting of the House at the request of the leader of the House. In such secret sitting, no stranger can be present in the chamber, lobby, or galleries except with the permission of the Speaker.
- The Speaker is the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group. The Indian Parliamentary Group acts as a link between the Parliament of India and various Parliaments around the world.
Independence and Impartiality of the Speaker
As we’ve already discussed the significance of the office of the Speaker, and how he plays a decisive role in various matters in the House, such as disqualification of a member, determining whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, and how his vote, also known as ‘casting vote’ decides the fate of a question in the Lok Sabha. So, if an office is vested with such important powers, its independence and impartiality become a major concern. And ensuring his independence and impartiality means protecting the temple of democracy. So, the Constitution of India, just as it has done for the judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, has laid down certain clear-cut principles to ensure and safeguard the independence of the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha, these are:
- Similar to the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court, the Speaker is provided with security of tenure. It means that he can be removed only by a resolution passed by the Lok Sabha with a special majority.
- The conduct of the Speaker of Lok Sabha cannot be discussed in the House except when a substantive motion is passed against him.
- The powers and functions of the Speaker, such as maintaining decorum in the House, and regulating the business of the House are not subject to the jurisdiction of any court.
- The salaries and allowances of the presiding officers of Lok Sabha are fixed by the Parliament, i.e they are charged to the Consolidated Fund of India, thus it’s not subject to legislative approval through voting.
- As discussed earlier, the Speaker cannot vote in the first instance. He can vote only in case of a tie, which ensures his impartiality.
Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha
Election and Tenure
The Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha is also a presiding officer of Lok Sabha. Similar to the Speaker of Lok Sabha, he is also elected amongst the members of the Lok Sabha. Similar to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Speaker remains in office during the tenure of the Lok Sabha. However, his tenure could terminate before the Lok Sabha in three exceptional cases:
- if he ceases to be a member of Lok Sabha;
- if he resigns by writing to the Speaker;
- if he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the then members of Lok Sabha. Such a resolution can be moved only after giving 14 days’ advance notice.
Powers and Functions
- The Deputy Speaker of the House is not subordinate to the Speaker and is directly responsible to the House.
- However, when the Speaker presides over the House, the deputy speaker is like any other ordinary member of the House.
- Similar to the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker cannot vote in the first instance and votes only in case of a tie.
- The Deputy Speaker can act as the Speaker when the office of the Speaker is vacant, or when he is absent from the sitting of the House. He can preside over the joint session of the Parliament when the Speaker is absent.
- A special privilege of the Deputy Speaker is whenever he is appointed as a member of the Parliamentary Committee, he automatically becomes its chairman.
- The salary and allowances of the Deputy Speaker are fixed by the Parliament of India and are charged to the Consolidated Fund of India.
Important facts regarding the Speaker and Deputy Speaker
The office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker was introduced in India for the first time in 1921 under the Government of India Act of 1919, popularly known as the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. Prior to 1921, the role of Speaker was performed by the Governor General of India, who presided over the meetings of the Central Legislature.
Frederick Whyte and Sachidanand Sinha were appointed as the first Speaker and Deputy Speaker in 1921. The appointment was made by the Governor-General of India.
Vithalbhai J. Patel became the first Indian and first elected speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly in 1925.
The first Speaker and First Deputy Speaker of independent India’s Lok Sabha were G.V. Mavalankar and Ananthasayanam Ayyangar respectively.
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