Law and Justice

Role of Speaker in Indian Parliamentary System

In India, the political system is based on parliamentary form of government. Parliament in India consists of President, Lok Sabha (Lower House) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House). The Lok Sabha which is often termed as highest legislative body of the country chooses its Speaker who presides over the day to day functioning of the house. On state level there are state assemblies formulating laws for state. When we mention about Speaker, it is usually the Lok Sabha Speaker as in Rajya Sabha, the role of Speaker or Chairman is performed by the Vice President of the country in its ex-officio capacity. 

As the head of the Lok Sabha and its principal spokesman, the Speaker represents its collective voice. Though, he is a part of a political party from which he has got elected but he needs to be strictly impartial. His decisions are final and ordinarily can’t be questioned, challenged or criticized. India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru had said that in a parliamentary democracy, the Speaker represents the dignity and the freedom of the House and because the House represents the country, the speaker in a way becomes the symbol of the country’s freedom and liberty.

ROLE OF SPEAKER

The Speaker has pivotal role to play in the functioning of Lok Sabha:

  • He/she conducts the proceedings of the House and maintains discipline and decorum amongst its members. The Speaker has to see to it that Parliament function the way that it is intended to under the Constitution. 
  • When voting occurs in the Lok Sabha to pass any legislation, he does not cast his vote initially as he is an impartial figure who can’t support any of the group. But, in case if there is a tie after voting he casts his deciding vote in an impartial manner and the subsequent result has to be accepted by all the members.
  • The Speaker has extensive functions to perform in matters of administrative, judicial and regulatory, falling under his domain.
  • It is the role and power of the Speaker to permit various parliamentary procedures such as the motion of adjournment, no confidence motion, among others. 
  • The Anti-Defection Law, 1985 enables the Speaker to disqualify a Member of Parliament on grounds of defection i.e. shifting of allegiance to other political parties.   
  •  The Speaker presides over the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. 
  • Once a Money Bill is transmitted from the Lower House to the Upper House, the Speaker is solely responsible for endorsing his or her certificate on the Bill. In other words, he/she is given the pivotal power to decide whether any Bill is a Money Bill. This decision is considered final, and all procedures henceforth, must be carried along accordingly.
  • The Speaker has under his or her jurisdiction, a number of Parliamentary Committees such as the Rules Committee, the Business Advisory Committee and the General Purposes Committee. The Speaker nominates the various Chairmen of these Committees, as well as looks into the procedural hindrances of the workings of these Committees, if any.
  • Besides heading the Lok Sabha, the Speaker is also the 'ex-officio' President of the Indian Parliamentary Group. He/she also acts in the capacity of Chairman of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India.
  • As part of the Speaker's administrative role, he or she is the head of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, maintaining absolute security surveillance in the Parliament.

IMPARTIALITY OF SPEAKERS

Therefore, it is clearly visible that the Speaker has very wide ranging roles to play as the presiding officer, as head of the Lok Sabha and as an elected representative. He has a unique position among all the elected representatives which grants him both power and responsibility. He must be unbiased to perform his functions in proper manner. Of course, he belongs to a particular political party and might wish to support that but he must respect the responsibility given to him and adopt absolutely impartial nature.

The Speaker represents the dignity and freedom of the house because the house represents the nation in a particular way & the Speaker becomes symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty. Therefore that should be an honored and free position which should be occupied by persons with outstanding ability and impartiality.”

Despite of being aware of the ethics and high standards of the Speaker’s office, there have been several instances in India where these ethics were not followed. One such incident occurred in 1992 when the Speaker of Manipur Assembly disqualified an MLA. When the Supreme Court objected this statement, the Speaker refused to obey the Supreme Court order.

In two other cases, the Speakers in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh assemblies had helped ruling parties by using their powers to disqualify MLAs under the Anti-Defection Law.

In all these cases, the speakers had misused their powers in order to help particular political parties to maintain their majority. Thus they have violated the decorum of this honourable position.

SOME REFORMS ARE PARTICULARLY NEEDED TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE:

There should be provisions of strict punishment in case the Speaker behaves partially. The neutrality of the Speaker is equally important as that of the neutrality of Chief Election Commissioners and Chief Information Commissioners. The biased behaviour of the Speaker may lead to conflicts among the political parties. So, there is an urgent need to handle this issue.

CONCLUSION

The Speaker has landmark position in Indian democracy and he plays very important role. He presides over the meetings in which the Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers and all other Members of Parliament are present which provides him a unique position. The dignified role of Speaker is to conducts the proceedings of the House; maintain the decorum of the House, gives chance to all MPs to present their views and also to punish them on the grounds of defection or unruly behavior. Impartiality is extremely important for the Speaker to ensure that people’s voice in terms of their representatives should not be suppressed. It ensures that by respecting the opinion of everyone, the nation can reach to new heights and can attain glory and happiness.