The Lok Sabha (House of the People) is the Lower house of India's bicameral Parliament, with the Upper house being the Rajya Sabha. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by adult universal suffrage and a first-past-the-post system to represent their respective constituencies, and they hold their seats for five years or until the body is dissolved by the President on the advice of the council of ministers. The house meets in the Lok Sabha Chambers of the Sansad Bhavan in New Delhi.
The maximum strength of the House envisaged by the Constitution of India is 552, which is made up by election of up to 530 members to represent the states; up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories and not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian Community to be nominated by the President of India, if, in his/her opinion, that community is not adequately represented in the House. Under the current laws, the strength of Lok Sabha is 545, including the two seats reserved for members of the Anglo-Indian community. The total elective membership is distributed among the states in proportion to their population. A total of 131 seats (18.42%) are reserved for representatives of Scheduled Castes (84) and Scheduled Tribes (47). The quorum for the House is 10% of the total membership.
Term of the House
The Lok Sabha, unless sooner dissolved, continues to operate for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and the expiration of the period of five years. However, while a proclamation of emergency is in operation, this period may be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not extending, in any case, beyond a period of six months after the proclamation has ceased to operate.
An exercise to redraw Lok Sabha constituencies' boundaries has been carried out by the Delimitation Commission based on the Indian census of 2001. This exercise, which was supposed to be carried out after every census, was suspended in 1976 following a constitutional amendment to avoid adverse effects on the family planning programme which was being implemented. The 16th Lok Sabha was elected in May 2014 and is the latest to date.
The Lok Sabha has its own television channel, Lok Sabha TV, headquartered within the premises of Parliament.
A major portion of the Indian subcontinent was under British rule from 1858 to 1947. During this period, the office of the Secretary of State for India (along with the Council of India) was the authority through whom British Parliament exercised its rule in the Indian sub-continent, and the office of Viceroy of India was created, along with an Executive Council in India, consisting of high officials of the British government. The Indian Councils Act 1861 provided for a Legislative Council consisting of the members of the Executive Council and non-official members. The Indian Councils Act 1892 established legislatures in each of the provinces of British India and increased the powers of the Legislative Council. Although these Acts increased the representation of Indians in the government, their power still remained limited, and the electorate very small. The Indian Councils Act 1909 and the Government of India Act 1919 further expanded the participation of Indians in the administration. The Indian Independence Act, passed by the British parliament on 18 July 1947, divided British India (which did not include the Princely States) into two new independent countries, India and Pakistan, which were to be dominions under the Crown until they had each enacted a new constitution. The Constituent Assembly was divided into two for the separate nations, with each new Assembly having sovereign powers transferred to it for the respective dominion.
The Constitution of India was adopted on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950, proclaiming India to be a sovereign, democratic republic. This contained the founding principles of the law of the land which would govern India in its new form, which now included all the princely states which had not acceded to Pakistan.
According to Article 79 (Part V-The Union.) of the Constitution of India, the Parliament of India consists of the President of India and the two Houses of Parliament known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
The Lok Sabha (House of the Leaders) was duly constituted for the first time on 17 April 1952 after the first General Elections held from 25 October 1951 to 21 February 1952.
Article 84 (Part V.—The Union) of Indian Constitution sets qualifications for being a member of Lok Sabha, which are as follows:
- He / She should be a citizen of India, and must subscribe before the Election Commission of India an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule of Indian Constitution.
- He / She should not be less than 25 years of age.
- He / She possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
- He / She should not be proclaimed criminal i.e. they should not be a convict, a confirmed debtor or otherwise disqualified by law; and
- He / She should have his/her name in the electoral rolls in any part of the country.
However, a member can be disqualified of being a member of Parliament:
- If he / she holds office of profit;
- If he / she is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court
- If he / she is an undischarged insolvent;
- If he / she is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgment of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
- If he / she is violating party discipline (as per Tenth schedule of the constitution); disqualified under Representation of People Act.
A seat in the Lok Sabha will become vacant in the following circumstances: (during normal functioning of the House)
- When the holder of the seat, by writing to the speaker, resigns.
- When the holder of the seat is absent from 60 consecutive days of proceedings of the House, without prior permission of the Speaker.
- When the holder of the seat is subject to any disqualifications mentioned in the Constitution or any law enacted by Parliament.
- A seat may also be vacated when the holder stands disqualified under the 'Anti-Defection Law'.
Furthermore, as per article 101 (Part V.—The Union) of Indian Constitution; A person cannot be : (1) a member of both Houses of Parliament and provision shall be made by Parliament by law for the vacation by a person who is chosen a member of both Houses of his seat in one House or the other.(2) a member both of Parliament and of a House of the Legislature of a State.
System of elections in Lok Sabha
Members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected by the people of India, on the basis of Universal Suffrage. For the purpose of holding direct elections to Lok Sabha; each state is divided into territorial constituencies. In this respect, the constitution of India makes the following two provisions:
- Each state is allotted a number of seats in the Lok Sabha in such a manner that the ratio between that number and its population is same for all the states of India. This provision does not apply for states having a population of less than 6 million (60 lakhs).
- Each state is divided into territorial constituencies in such a manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it remain the same throughout the state.
Note: The expression population here refers to the population ascertained at the preceding census (2001 Census) of which relevant figure have been published.
Lok Sabha has certain powers that make it more powerful than the Rajya Sabha.Motions of no confidence against the government can be introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha. If passed by a majority vote, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers resign collectively. The Rajya Sabha has no power over such a motion, and hence has no real power over the executive. This is because the Constitution of India has only made the Union Council of ministers responsible to the Lok Sabha, not to the Rajya Sabha.
Money bills can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, and upon being passed, are sent to the Rajya Sabha, where it can be deliberated on for up to 14 days. If not rejected by the Rajya Sabha, or 14 days lapse from the introduction of the bill in the Rajya Sabha without any action by the House, or recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha are not accepted by the Lok Sabha, the bill is considered passed. The budget is presented in the Lok Sabha by the Finance Minister in the name of the President of India.
In matters pertaining to non-financial (ordinary) bills, after the bill has been passed by the House where it was originally tabled (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha), it is sent to the other house, where it may be kept for a maximum period of 6 months. If the other House rejects the bill or a period of 6 months elapses without any action by that House, or the House that originally tabled the bill does not accept the recommendations made by the members of the other house, it results in a deadlock. This is resolved by a joint session of both Houses, presided over by the speaker of the Lok Sabha and decided by a simple majority. Though the Constitution has placed both houses on the same footing in this regard, in reality it is the Lok Sabha's opinions that mostly prevails—due to its bigger numerical strength.
Equal Powers with the Rajya Sabha in initiating and passing any Bill for Constitutional Amendment (by a majority of the total membership of the House and at least two-thirds majority of the members present and voting).
Equal Powers with the Rajya Sabha in initiating and passing a motion for the impeachment of the President (by two-thirds of the membership of the House).
Equal Powers with the Rajya Sabha in impeachment process (initiating and passing a motion for the removal) of the judges of the Supreme Court and the state High Courts (by a majority of the membership of the House and at least two-thirds majority of the members present and voting), who then can be removed by the President of India.
Equal Powers with the Rajya Sabha in initiating and passing a resolution declaring war or national emergency (by two-thirds majority) or constitutional emergency (by simple majority) in a state.
If the Lok Sabha is dissolved before or after the declaration of a National Emergency, the Rajya Sabha becomes the sole Parliament. It cannot be dissolved. This is a limitation on the Lok Sabha. But there is a possibility that president can exceed the term to not more than 1 year under the proclamation of emergency and the same would be lowered down to six-month if the said proclamation ceases to operate.
In conclusion, it is clear that the Lok Sabha is more powerful than the Rajya Sabha in almost all matters. Even in those matters in which the Constitution has placed both Houses on an equal footing, the Lok Sabha has more influence due to its greater numerical strength. This is typical of any Parliamentary democracy, with the lower House always being more powerful than the upper.
The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and Directions issued by the Speaker from time to time there under regulate the procedure in Lok Sabha. The items of business, notice of which is received from the Ministers/ Private Members and admitted by the Speaker, are included in the daily List of Business which is printed and circulated to members in advance. For various items of business to be taken up in the House the time is allotted by the House on the recommendations of the Business Advisory Committee. The Speaker presides over the sessions of the House and regulates procedure.
Three sessions of Lok Sabha take place in a year:Budget session: February to May.
Monsoon session: July to September.
Winter session: November to mid December.
When in session, Lok Sabha holds its sittings usually from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. and from 2 P.M. to 6 P.M. On some days the sittings are continuously held without observing lunch break and are also extended beyond 6 P.M. depending upon the business before the House. Lok Sabha does not ordinarily sit on Saturdays and Sundays and other closed holidays.
The first hour of every sitting is called Question Hour. Asking questions in Parliament is the free and unfettered right of members, and during Question Hour they may ask questions of ministers on different aspects of administration and government policy in the national and international spheres. Every minister whose turn it is to answer to questions has to stand up and answer for his department's acts of omission or commission.
Questions are of three types—Starred, Unstarred and Short Notice. A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer in the House and which is distinguished by an asterisk mark. An unstarred Question is one which is not called for oral answer in the house and on which no supplementary questions can consequently be asked. An answer to such a question is given in writing. Minimum period of notice for starred/ unstarred question is 10 clear days. If the questions given notice of are admitted by the Speaker, they are listed and printed for answer on the dates allotted to the Ministries to which the subject matter of the question pertains.
The normal period of notice does not apply to short notice questions which relate to matters of urgent public importance. However, a Short Notice Question may be answered only on short notice if so permitted by the Speaker and the Minister concerned is prepared to answer it at shorter notice. A short notice question is taken up for answer immediately after the Question Hour, popularly known as Zero Hour.
Zero Hour: The time immediately following the Question Hour has come to be known as "Zero Hour". It starts at around 12 noon (hence the name) and members can, with prior notice to the Speaker, raise issues of importance during this time. Typically, discussions on important Bills, the Budget, and other issues of national importance take place from 2 pm onwards.
After the Question Hour, the House takes up miscellaneous items of work before proceeding to the main business of the day. These may consist of one or more of the following: Adjournment Motions, Questions involving breaches of Privileges, Papers to be laid on the Table, Communication of any messages from Rajya Sabha, Intimations regarding President's assent to Bills, Calling Attention Notices, Matters under Rule 377, Presentation of Reports of Parliamentary Committee, Presentation of Petitions, miscellaneous statements by Ministers, Motions regarding elections to Committees, Bills to be withdrawn or introduced.
The main business of the day may be consideration of a Bill or financial business or consideration of a resolution or a motion.
Legislative proposals in the form of a Bill can be brought forward either by a Minister or by a private member. In the former case it is known as Government Bill and in the latter case it is known as a Private Members' Bill. Every Bill passes through three stages—called three readings—before it is passed. To become law it must be passed by both the Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and then assented to by the president.
The presentation, discussion of, and voting on the annual General and Railways budgets—followed by the passing of the Appropriations Bill and the Finance Bill—is a long, drawn-out process that takes up a major part of the time of the House during its Budget Session every year.
Among other kinds of business that come up before the House are resolutions and motions. Resolutions and motions may be brought forward by Government or by private members. Government may move a resolution or a motion for obtaining the sanction to a scheme or opinion of the House on an important matter of policy or on a grave situation. Similarly, a private member may move a resolution or motion in order to draw the attention of the House and of the Government to a particular problem. The last two and half hours of sitting on every Friday are generally allotted for transaction of private members' business. While private members' bills are taken up on one Friday, private members' resolutions are taken up on the succeeding Friday, and so on.
A Half-an-Hour Discussion can be raised on a matter of sufficient public importance which has been the subject of a recent question in Lok Sabha irrespective of the fact whether the question was answered orally or the answer was laid on the Table of the House and the answer which needs elucidation on a matter of fact. Normally not more than half an hour is allowed for such a discussion. Usually, half-an-hour discussion is listed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. In one session, a member is allowed to raise not more than two half-an-hour discussions. During the discussion, the member, who has given notice, makes a short statement and not more than four members, who have intimated earlier and have secured one of the four places in the ballot, are permitted to ask a question each for further elucidating any matter of fact. Thereafter, the Minister concerned replies. There is no formal motion before the House nor voting.
Members may raise discussions on matters of urgent public importance with the permission of the Speaker. Such discussions may take place on two days in a week. No formal motion is moved in the House nor is there any voting on such a discussion.
After the member who initiates discussion on an item of business has spoken, other members can speak on that item of business in such order as the Speaker may call upon them. Only one member can speak at a time and all speeches are directed to the Chair. A matter requiring the decision of the House is decided by means of a question put by the Speaker on a motion made by a member.
A division is one of the forms in which the decision of the House is ascertained. Normally, when a motion is put to the House members for and against it indicate their opinion by saying "Aye" or "No" from their seats. The Chair goes by the voices and declares that the motion is either accepted or rejected by the House. If a member challenges the decision, the Chair orders that the lobbies be cleared. Then the division bell is rung and an entire network of bells installed in the various parts and rooms in Parliament House and Parliament House Annexe rings continuously for three and a half minutes. Members and Ministers rush to the Chamber from all sides. After the bell stops, all the doors to the Chamber are closed and nobody can enter or leave the Chamber till the division is over. Then the Chair puts the question for second time and declares whether in its opinion the "Ayes" or the "Noes", have it. If the opinion so declared is again challenged, the Chair asks the votes to be recorded by operating the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment.
With the announcement of the Speaker for recording the votes, the Secretary- General presses the button of a key board. Then a gong sounds serving as a signal to members for casting their votes. For casting a vote each member present in the Chamber has to press a switch and then operate one of the three push buttons fixed in his seat. The push switch must be kept pressed simultaneously until the gong sounds for the second time after 10 seconds. There are two Indicator Boards installed in the wall on either side of the Speaker's Chair in the Chamber. Each vote cast by a member is flashed here. Immediately after the votes are cast, they are totalled mechanically and the details of the results are flashed on the Result Indicator Boards installed in the railings of the Speaker's and Diplomatic Galleries.
Divisions are normally held with the aid of the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment. Where so directed by the Speaker in terms of relevant provision in the Rules of Procedure etc. in Lok Sabha, Divisions may be held either by distribution of 'Aye'/'No' and 'Abstention' slips to members in the House or by the members recording their votes by going into the lobbies. There is an Indicator Board in the machine room showing the name of each member. The result of Division and vote cast by each member with the aid of Automatic Vote Recording Equipment appear on this Board also. Immediately a photograph of the Indicator Board is taken. Later the Photograph is enlarged and the names of members who voted 'Ayes' and for 'Noes' are determined with the help of the photograph and incorporated in Lok Sabha Debates.
Three versions of Lok Sabha Debates are prepared viz., the Hindi version, the English version and the Original version. Only the Hindi and English versions are printed. The Original version, in cyclostyled form, is kept in the Parliament Library for record and reference. The Hindi version all Questions asked and Answers given thereto in Hindi and the speeches made in Hindi as also verbatim Hindi translation of Questions and Answers and of speeches made in English or in regional languages. The English version contains Lok Sabha proceedings in English and the English translation of the proceedings which take place in Hindi or in any regional language. The Original version, however, contains proceedings in Hindi or in English as they actually take place in the House and also the English/Hindi translation of speeches made in regional languages.
If conflicting legislation is enacted by the two Houses, a joint sitting is held to resolve the differences. In such a session, the members of the Lok Sabha would generally prevail, since the Lok Sabha includes more than twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha.
Speaker and Deputy Speaker
As per Article 93 of Indian Constitution, the Lok Sabha has a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. In the Lok Sabha, the lower House of the Indian Parliament, both presiding officers—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. Vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is mentioned under Article 94 of the Constitution of India. As per Article 94 of Indian Constitution. A Speaker or a Deputy Speaker, should vacate his/her office, a) if he/she ceases to be a member of the House of the People, b) he/she resigns, c) removed from his office by a resolution of the House of the People passed by a majority.
The Speaker of Lok Sabha is at once a member of the House and also its Presiding Officer. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha conducts the business in the house. He/she decides whether a bill is a money bill or not. He/she maintains discipline and decorum in the house and can punish a member for their unruly behaviour by suspending them. He/she permits the moving of various kinds of motions and resolutions like the motion of no confidence, motion of adjournment, motion of censure and calling attention notice as per the rules. The Speaker decides on the agenda to be taken up for discussion during the meeting. It is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha who presides over joint sittings called in the event of disagreement between the two Houses on a legislative measure. Following the 52nd Constitution amendment, the Speaker is vested with the power relating to the disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha on grounds of defection. The Speaker makes obituary references in the House, formal references to important national and international events and the valedictory address at the conclusion of every Session of the Lok Sabha and also when the term of the House expires. Though a member of the House, the Speaker does not vote in the House except on those rare occasions when there is a tie at the end of a decision. Till date, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha has not been called upon to exercise this unique casting vote. While the office of Speaker is vacant due to absence/resignation/removal, the duties of the office shall be performed by the Deputy Speaker or, if the office of Deputy Speaker is also vacant, by such member of the House of the People as the President may appoint for the purpose.
Shri G. V. Mavalankar was the first Speaker of Lok Sabha (15 May 1952- 27 February 1956) and Shri M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar was the first Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha (30 May 1952 – 7 March 1956). In the 16th Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan was elected as the speaker on 3 June 2014, and is its second woman speaker and Shri M. Thambidurai as the deputy speaker.
The Lok Sabha has also a separate non-elected Secretariat staff.
Lok Sabha is constituted after the general election as follows:
Currently elected members of 16th Lok Sabha by their political party (As of 11 March 2017):