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Insights into Editorial: The second chair: On Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker

Speakers_Parliment

 

Context:

More than a year after the 17th Lok Sabha was constituted, the constitutionally mandated post of Deputy Speaker is lying vacant. Now, Harivansh Narayan Singh re-elected as Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman

The post of Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha has been one of the bones of contention between the government and the opposition, which has renewed its campaign for the position ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

This is the first time that the Lok Sabha has functioned for over a year without having a Deputy Speaker.

Office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker:

It has been said of the Office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that while the members of Parliament represent the individual constituencies, the Speaker represents the full authority of the House itself.

The Speaker has extensive functions to perform in matters administrative, judicial and regulatory, falling under his/her domain. He/She 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/she is the ultimate arbiter and interpreter of those provisions which relate to the functioning of the House.

His/Her decisions are final and binding and ordinarily cannot be questioned, challenged or criticised.

History of posts: Speaker and Deputy Speaker:

  1. The institutions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker originated in India in 1921 under the provisions of the Government of India Act of 1919 (Montague-Chelmsford Reforms).
  2. Before 1921, the Governor-General of India used to preside over the meetings of the Central Legislative Council.
  3. In 1921, the Frederick Whyte and Sachidanand Sinha were appointed by the Governor-General of India as the first Speaker and the first Deputy Speaker (respectively) of the central legislative assembly.
  4. In 1925, Vithalbhai J. Patel became the first Indian and the first elected Speaker of the central legislative assembly.
  5. The Government of India Act of 1935 changed the nomenclatures of President and Deputy President of the Central Legislative Assembly to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.
  6. V. Mavalankar and Ananthasayanam Ayyangar had the distinction of being the first Speaker and the first Deputy Speaker (respectively) of the Lok Sabha.

Election of Deputy Speaker:

  1. Article 93 of the Constitution provides for the election of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
  2. The constitutional office of the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha is more symbolic of parliamentary democracy than some real authority.
  3. There is no need to resign from their original party though as a Deputy Speaker, they have to remain impartial.
  4. While there has not been delay in the election of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker election has seen intense politicking at various times. Delays in Deputy Speaker election became routine thereafter.

Power & Roles of Deputy Speaker:

  1. He/she performs the duties of the Speaker’s office when it is vacant. He also acts as the Speaker when the latter is absent from the sitting of the House. In both cases, he assumes all the powers of the Speaker.
  2. He/she presides over the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament, in case the Speaker is absent from such a sitting.
  3. He/she is not subordinate to the Speaker. He is directly responsible to the House.
  4. He/she has one special privilege, that is, whenever he is appointed as a member of a parliamentary committee, he automatically becomes its chairman.
  5. She/he decides whether a bill is a money bill or a non-money bill.
  6. She/he maintains discipline and decorum in the house and can punish a member for unruly behaviour by suspending him/her.
  7. She/he 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.
  8. Like the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, while presiding over the House, cannot vote in the first instance; he can only exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie.

Election of Deputy Speaker:

Deputy Speaker is elected by the Lok Sabha itself from amongst its members. He is elected after the election of the Speaker has taken place.

According to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, “The election of a Deputy Speaker shall be held on such date as the Speaker may fix.

It is by convention that the position of Deputy Speaker is offered to the opposition party in India.

Tenure and removal They hold office until either they cease to be a member of the Lok Sabha or they resign.

They can be removed from office by a resolution passed in the Lok Sabha by an effective majority of its members.

Conclusion:

The Office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker occupies a pivotal position in our parliamentary democracy.

He/She symbolises the dignity and power of the House over which he/she 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/she cannot afford to overlook any aspect of parliamentary life.

His/Her 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.