Article 79 of the constitution of India says that “There shall he a parliament for the union which shall consist of the president and the two Houses to be known respectively as the council of states and the house of the people.” The Lower House – the House of the People – is also called the Lok Sabha while the Upper House – the Council of States – is also called the Rajya Sabha.
The President of India is not a member of the Parliament, but he is an integral part of it. He summons and prorogues the Parliament, inaugurates the session of the Parliament every year and may send messages to the House. He can issue ordinance when the Parliament is not in session. He puts his signature to authenticate the bills passed by the Parliament.
The following is an account of the powers and functions of the Indian Parliament.
I. Law-Making Power
The seventh schedule of the Indian constitution states the lists of subjects on which the central legislature and the state legislatures can make laws. The Union List consisting of 99 subjects falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament. The Concurrent List consisting of 52 subjects falls within the joint jurisdiction of the Parliament and the State Legislatures.
In case of conflict between them relating to a subject in the Concurrent List, the law made by the Parliament shall prevail over the law made by a State Legislature, provided the latter has not already received the assent of the President of India.
The State List with 61 subjects normally comes under the jurisdiction of State Legislatures. But under the following circumstances, the Parliament will have power to legislate on the subjects mentioned in the State List.
(a) Both during the proclamation of National Emergency under Article 352 and during the President’s rule in a State under Article 356;
(b) If in normal times, the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a two-third majority of its members, present and voting, that it is in national interest that the Parliament should make a law on any matter stated in the State List;
(c) If such legislation is felt necessary for the implementation of treaties or other international agreements concluded by India with other countries; and
(d) If the legislatures of two or more states pass a resolution requesting the Parliament to legislate on a matter included in the State List.
Except Money Bills, all other bills can be introduced in either House of the Parliament. Only when a non-Money Bill is passed by both Houses, it becomes an Act. In case of disagreement between the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on any non-Money Bill, the two Houses meet jointly to resolve their difference.
2. Financial Power
The Parliament is very powerful in financial matters. The budget is prepared every year by the Cabinet and it is also approved by the Parliament every year. Without the approval of the Parliament, the Central Government cannot spend a single paisa.
It is the Parliament which imposes taxes by passing the Finance Act and authorizes grants for the administration of the country by passing the Appropriation Act. However, it is important to remember that all bills relating to finance must be sanctioned by the President of India before they are introduced in the Parliament.
The Money Bills are introduced only in the Lok Sabha. They cannot originate in the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha has to return a Money Bill within 14 days either with its approval or with its recommendations. The Lok Sabha is free to accept or reject the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha. The President has no power to return a Money Bill for reconsideration.
It is thus clear that the President Demand money, the Lok Sabha is to grant it and the Rajya Sabha is to assent it. Further, in financial matters the Lok Sabha is much more powerful than the Rajya Sabha.
3. Control over the Executive
The Parliament can exercise control over the executive in four ways.’
(a) By Vote of No-confidence-
The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. If the members of the Lok Sabha are unhappy or dissatisfied with the performance of the government, they can move a vote of no-confidence against it. If the motion is adopted by the majority, then the government has to resign.
(b) By Considering Approval of Money Bills-
During discussion over the budget, the members of each House get an opportunity to criticize the inefficiency of individual ministries and the failure of the government as a whole. When a ministry moves demand for grant, its performance is seriously examined. If this demand for grant is rejected or a cut motion is adopted, it is considered as the expression of no-confidence of the members of the concerned House in that particular ministry.
(c) By Asking Questions-
During the Parliament session, the business of each day starts with the question hour. The members of each House put questions to the various ministries, and the answers of the Ministers contain valuable information about their departments. The Ministers take a lot of pain to give appropriate answers. Now that the ‘question answer hour’ is being televised, the Ministers are taking extra-care to appear as efficient and effective.
(d) By Moving Adjournment Motions-
At the end of question hour, an adjournment motion may be moved by a member to discuss an urgent matter of public importance. The opposition uses this device of adjournment motion to expose the faults and failures of the government.
(e) Through Committee on Ministerial Assurances-
The Parliament has a Committee on Ministerial Assurances. Its duty is to ensure that the promise made by a Minister in the Parliament is kept by it.
4. Constituent Power
The Parliament has power to amend the constitution, and both Houses have equal powers in this regard. A bill to amend the constitution may originate in either House and the bill requires to be approved by each House. For amending certain provisions of the constitution, ratification by not less than half of State Legislatures is necessary.
5. Judicial Power
The Parliament, though a legislative body, performs several judicial functions.
(a) The Parliament has the power to impeach the President of India, the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court, the chief and other members of the Election Commission of India, the Auditor and Comptroller general of India etc. The Parliament acts like a court while trying the cases of impeachment motions.
The impeachment motion has to be moved by at least one-fourth of the members of the house in which it is moved, and it can be moved with a 14-day notice. On the day fixed by the presiding officer, the motion is discussed and then put to vote. If the impeachment motion is passed in the house with two-third majority of its total membership, then it is referred to the other house for discussion and vote. The other house sits as the court of enquiry. It can summon the authority in person and seek his response to the charge leveled against him.
If the motion is passed in the other house with two-third majority of total membership, then the person against whom the motion is moved stands impeached. The impeachment motion is defeated, if it fails to be passed in either house. In the matter of impeachment motion, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha enjoy equal powers,
(b) The Vice President .of India can be removed from his office if a resolution is adopted to that effect by the Rajya Sabha and agreed to by the Lok Sabha.
(c) The parliament has the power to punish its members and others for branch of privileged of the house.
6. Electoral Power
The Parliament participates in the election of the President and Vice President. The President is elected by an Electoral College and the Parliament is a part of the Electoral College. The Vice-President is elected by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The members of different committees of the Parliament are elected by it.
7. Miscellaneous Powers
(a) The Parliament has power to increase the number of judges of the Supreme Court.
(b) It is empowered to create or abolish the State Legislative Council on the recommendation of the state concerned.
(c) It has power to create new states and alter the boundaries or names of existing states on the recommendation of the President of India.
The Parliament is composed of the representatives of all states and Union Territories of India, and most of them are elected representatives of the people. Thus the Parliament is the ‘mirror’ of the whole nation. It represents the hopes, aspirations, demand, views and opinions of all the people of the country.
Similarly, it also informs the government of the feedbacks of its policies and actions. Thus, the Parliament acts as the communication link between the government and the people.
The Parliament is the main organ of democratic India, and the success of democracy would greatly depend upon the efficacy of the Parliament. A weak and subdued Parliament would be bad for democracy in India.