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Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

Introduction | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • 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 proposal for legislation and it becomes an act or law when duly enacted.
  • Bills introduced in the Parliament are of two kinds: public bills and private bills (also known as government bills and private members’ bills respectively). Though both are governed by the same general procedure and pass through the same stages in the House.

Difference between Private Members’ Bill & Public Bill in India

We all have understood that public bills are government bills and private bills are private members’ bill. However, there are a few differences between two which are mentioned in the table below:

Difference Private Members’ Bill Public Bill
Introduction In either house of parliament In either house of parliament
Introduced by Any member of the parliament other than a minister Minister
Chance of Approval in Parliament Lesser Chance Greater Chance
Rejection of the bill implies No effect on government’s position Expression of want of parliamentary confidence in the government and may lead to its resignation.
Notice Period for Introduction One month’s notice Seven Days’ Notice
Drafting of the Bill Concerned Department in consultation with law department Member who is introducing it will only draft it

Classification Of Bills In Parliament

The bills introduced in the Parliament can also be classified into four categories:

  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.

Ordinary Bills | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

Every ordinary bill has to pass through the following five stages in the Parliament before it finds a place on the Statute Book:

First Reading

  • A minister or a member introduces the bill in either house of the Parliament. He asks for leave before introducing the bill. He reads the title and objective of the bill.
  • After the introduction, the bill is published in the Gazette of India
  • Note:
  • No discussion on the bill takes place in this stage
  • If the bill is published in the Indian Gazette before its introduction, the minister/member does not have to ask for leave

Second Reading

  • During this stage, the bill receives not only the general but also the detailed scrutiny and assumes its final shape. Hence, it forms the most important stage in the enactment of a bill. In fact, this stage involves three more sub-stages, namely, stage of general discussion, committee stage and consideration stage.
  • Stage of General Discussion
    • The printed copies of the bill are distributed to all the members. The principles of the bill and its provisions are discussed generally, but the details of the bill are not discussed. At this stage, the House can take any one of the following four actions:
      • It may take the bill into consideration immediately or on some other fixed date;
      • It may refer the bill to a select committee of the House;
      • It may refer the bill to a joint committee of the two Houses; and
      • It may circulate the bill to elicit public opinion.
    • A Select Committee consists of members of the House where the bill has originated and a joint committee consists of members of both the Houses of Parliament.
  • Committee Stage
    • The usual practice is to refer the bill to a select committee of the House. This committee examines the bill thoroughly and in detail, clause by clause. It can also amend its provisions, but without altering the principles underlying it. After completing the scrutiny and discussion, the committee reports the bill back to the House.
  • Consideration Stage
    • The House, after receiving the bill from the select committee, considers the provisions of the bill clause by clause. Each clause is discussed and voted upon separately. The members can also move amendments and if accepted, they become part of the bill.

Third Reading | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • One of the two actions take place:
    • Acceptance of the Bill (If the majority of members present and voting accept the bill, the bill is regarded as passed by the House)
    • Rejection of the Bill
  • No amendments to the bill are allowed
  • 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.

Bill in the Second House

  • 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:
    • it may pass the bill as sent by the first house (ie, without amendments);
    • it may pass the bill with amendments and return it to the first House for reconsideration;
    • it may reject the bill altogether; and
    • it may not take any action and thus keep the bill pending.
  • 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.

Assent of the President | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • One of the three actions can be taken by him:
  • May give his assent to the bill (The bill becomes an act and is placed on statute book)
  • May withhold his assent to the bill (The bill ends and does not become an act)
  • May return the bill for reconsideration (The houses can/cannot make amendments and send it back to the President after which he has to give assent)

Money Bill

  • Article 110 of the Constitution deals with the definition of money bills. It states that a bill is deemed to be a money bill if it contains ‘only’ provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
    • The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
    • The regulation of the borrowing of money by the Union government;
    • The custody of the Consolidated Fund of India or the contingency fund of India, the payment of moneys into or the withdrawal of money from any such fund;
    • The appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
    • Declaration of any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or increasing the amount of any such expenditure;
    • The 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 Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified above.

 

  • If any question arises whether a bill is a money bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is final. His decision in this regard cannot be questioned in any court of law or in the either House of Parliament or even the president. When a money bill is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and presented to the president for assent, the Speaker endorses it as a money bill.
  • The Constitution lays down a special procedure for the passing of money bills in the Parliament. 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 for its consideration. The Rajya Sabha has restricted powers with regard to a money bill. It cannot reject or amend a money bill. It can only make the recommendations. It must return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, whether with or without recommendations. The Lok Sabha can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha.
  • If the Lok Sabha accepts any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the modified form. 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. 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

  • As per Article 110 of the Constitution of India, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill. The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister. Keep in mind that the Finance Bill is an umbrella legislation. Why? This Bill encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget. The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament. Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.

Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations. The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days. However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.
  • In the case of a Finance Bill, Article 117 of the Constitution categorically lays down that a Bill pertaining to sub-clauses (a) to (f) of clause (1) shall not be introduced or moved except with the President’s recommendation. Also, a Bill that makes such provisions shall not be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

Financial Bills (I)

  • It is defined as a bill that contains matters not only related with Article 110 (Money Bill) but also other matters of finances.
  • Its similarity with money bill:
  • It is introduced only in Lok Sabha similar to Money Bill
  • It is introduced only on the recommendation of President
  • Its difference with money bill:
  • It can be either rejected or amended by the Rajya Sabha which is not the case with money bill
  • There is a provision of joint sitting summoned by President in case of deadlock
  • President can give his assent, withhold the bill or can even return the bill for reconsideration

Financial Bills (II) | Parliament Part 7- Legislative Procedures and Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • It is defined as bill that solely deals with provisions involving expenditure from Consolidated Fund of India and does not include any matter of money bill (Article 110.)
  • It is treated as ordinary bill in all respects unlike Financial Bill (I)
  • Special Feature: It cannot be passed by either houses of the Parliament unless President has recommended them for consideration of the bill
  • It can be either rejected or amended by either House of Parliament
  • There is a provision of joint sitting summoned by President in case of deadlock
  • President can give his assent, withhold the bill or can even return the bill for reconsideration

Joint Sitting Of Two Houses

  • The Constitution of India provides for a joint session of the Parliament.
  • India has a bicameral Parliament. To pass any bill, both the Houses (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) must concur. The bill has to be passed by both Houses before the President can give his/her assent.
  • The founding fathers foresaw situations where there could be a deadlock between both Houses of Parliament.
  • Therefore, they provided for a constitutional mechanism to break this deadlock, in the form of joint sittings.

Joint Sitting of Parliament is Summoned by

  • The joint sitting is called by the President.
  • The Speaker presides over a joint sitting. In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over it, and in his absence, the sitting is presided over by the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • If any of the above-mentioned people are not available, any Member of Parliament (MP) can preside over the sitting by consensus of both Houses.
  • The quorum to constitute a joint sitting: 1/10th of the total number of members of the House.

Joint Sitting Constitutional Provision

  • Article 108 of the Indian Constitution provides for a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament. Accordingly, a joint session can be summoned when:
  • If after a bill is passed by one House and transmitted to the other House –
  • The other House rejects this bill, or
  • The Houses do not agree on the amendments made to the bill, or
  • More than six months elapse with the bill being received by the other House without it being passed.
  • Then, the President can summon a joint sitting unless the bill had elapsed because of the Lok Sabha’s dissolution.

Exceptions to Joint Sittings

  • There are two exceptions when a joint sitting cannot be summoned. They are for the following bills:
    • Constitution Amendment Bill: According to Article 368, the Constitution can be amended only by a 2/3rd majority in both Houses. There is no provision for a joint sitting in case of a disagreement between both Houses.
    • Money Bill (Article 110): As per the Constitution, money bills require the Lok Sabha’s approval only.
  • Even of the Rajya Sabha does not pass the money bill within 14 days, the bill is considered passed by both Houses after the period of 14 days is over.
  • The Rajya Sabha can make recommendations to the Bill which the Lok Sabha is not required to accept.
  • Thus, in the case of a money bill, the necessity of a joint sitting does not arise.

 

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