Essay on working of Parliamentary democracy in India

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The Parliament of India (commonly referred to as the Indian Parliament) is the supreme legislative body in India. The Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all political bodies in India. The Parliament of India consists of the two houses and the President of India.

The parliament is bicameral, with an upper house called as Rajya Sabha, and a lower house called as Lok Sabha. The two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Sansad Bhawan (commonly known as- the Sansad Marg), in New Delhi. The Members of either house are commonly referred to as Member of Parliament or MP.

The MPs of Lok Sabha are elected by direct election and the MPs of Rajya Sabha are elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies in accordance with proportional voting. The Parliament is composed of 802 MPs, who serve the largest democratic electorate in the world and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (714 million eligible voters in 2009).

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Of the 552 members of the House of People, 530 members represent the territorial Constituencies in the States, 20 represent the Union territories, chosen in such manner as Parliament may by law provide. These members serve a 5 year term until the next General Election is held. 2 members are chosen by the president. House seats are apportioned among the states by population in such a manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the State is, so far as practicable, the same for all States.

The 250 Members of the Council of States serve a staggered six-year term. 12 of these members are nominated by the President and shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely literature, science, art and social service. The 238 members are representatives of the States shall be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the State in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. Every two years, approximately one-third of the Council is elected at a time.

Components:

The Indian Parliament consists of two houses called as Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively and the President of India. Concurrence of all the three is required to pass any legislative business.

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Lok Sabha :

Lok Sabha (in Hindi) is also known as the “House of the People” or the lower house. Almost all of its members are directly elected by citizens of India. Every citizen who is over 18 years of age, irrespective of gender, caste, religion or race, who is otherwise not disqualified, is eligible to vote.

The Lok Sabha can have up to 552 members as envisaged in the Constitution of India. It has a term of five years. To be eligible for membership in the Lok Sabha, a person must be a citizen of India and must be 25 years of age or older, mentally sound, should not be bankrupt and has no criminal procedures against him/her.

Up to 530 members can be elected from the states in single member districts, up to 20 members from the Union territories and no more than two members from the community can be nominated by the President of India if the president feels that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented. The Lok Sabha has 545 members; some seats are reserved for representatives of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

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Rajya Sabha:

The Rajya Sabha is also known as “Council of States” or the upper house. Its members are indirectly elected by members of legislative bodies of the States.

The Rajya Sabha has 250 members in all. Elections to it are scheduled and the chamber cannot be dissolved. Each member has a term of 6 years and elections are held for one-third of the seats after every 2 years.

i. Representatives of States are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the State in accordance with system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.

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ii. Representatives of Union Territories are indirectly elected by members of an electoral college for that territory in accordance with system of proportional representation.

The Council of States is designed to maintain the federal character of the country. The number of members from a state depends on the population of the state (e.g. 31 from Uttar Pradesh and one from Nagaland).

The minimum age for a person to become a member of Rajya Sabha is 30 years. President of India

The President is elected, from a group of nominees, by the elected members of the Parliament of India (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) as well as of the state legislatures (Vidhan Sabhas), and serves for a term of five years. Historically, ruling party (majority in the Lok Sabha) nominees have been elected and run largely uncontested.

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Incumbents are permitted to stand for re-election. A formula is used to allocate votes so there is a balance between the population of each state and the number of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to give an equal balance between State Assembly members and National Parliament members. If no candidate receives a majority of votes there is a sytem by which losing candidates are eliminated from the contest and votes for them transferred to other candidates, until one gains a majority.

Working, Procedures and Committees:

The Parliament consists of the President of Republic of India and both the Chambers. The House and the Council are equal partners in the legislative process; however, the Constitution grants the House of People some unique powers. Revenue-raising or “Money” bills must originate in the House of People. The Council of States can only make recommendations suggestions over these bills to the House, within a period of fourteen days-lapse of which the bill is assumed to have been passed by both the Chambers.

Lawmaking Procedures

Lawmaking procedures in India are modeled after, and are thus very similar to, those followed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Parliamentary Committees :

Parliamentary committees play a vital role in the Parliamentary System. They are a vibrant link between the Parliament, the Executive and the general public.

The need for Committees arises out of two factors, the first one being the need for vigilance on the part of the Legislature over the actions of the Executive, while the second one is that the modern Legislature these days is over-burdened with heavy volume of work with limited time at its disposal. It thus becomes impossible that every matter should be thoroughly and systematically scrutinised and considered on the floor of the House.

If the work is to be done with reasonable care, naturally some Parliamentary responsibility has to be entrusted to an agency in which the whole House has confidence. Entrusting certain functions of the House to the Committees has, therefore, become a normal practice. This has become all the more necessary as a Committee provides the expertise on a matter which is referred to it.

In a Committee, the matter is deliberated at length, views are expressed freely, and the matter is considered in depth, in a business-like manner and in a calmer atmosphere. In most of the Committees, public is directly or indirectly associated when memoranda containing suggestions are received, on-the-spot studies are conducted and oral evidence is taken which helps the Committees in arriving at the conclusions.

Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Ad hoc Committees and the Standing Committees most powerful of all is public accounts committee which is headed by the leader of the opposition.

Standing Committees :

Each House of Parliament has standing committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the Committee on Petitions, the Committee of Privileges and the Rules Committee, etc.

Standing committees are permanent and regular committees which are constituted from time-to-time in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Parliament. The work of these committees is on continuous nature. The Financial Committees, DRSCs and some other Committees come under the category of Standing Committees.

These are the Committees on Subordinate Legislation, the Committee on Government Assurances, the Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Public Undertaking and Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs). Ad hoc Committees

Ad hoc committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report. The principal ad hoc committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills. Others like the Railway Convention Committee, the Committees on the Draft Five Year Plans and the Hindi Equivalents Committee were appointed for specific purposes.

Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex etc. also comes under the category of ad hoc committees.

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