The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body which is comprises of the President and the two houses- Rajya Sabha (Council of States/ Upper House) and Lok Sabha (House of People/ Lower House).The President has the power to summon and prorogue either House of Parliament or to dissolve Lok Sabha. The first general elections under the new Constitution were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Parliament came into existence in April, 1952.
The powers and functions of Indian Parliament can be classified into following heads:
1. Legislative powers
2. Executive powers
3. Financial powers
4. Constituent powers
5. Judicial powers
6. Electoral powers
7. Other powers
All the subjects in our constitution are divided among state, union and concurrent lists. In concurrent list Parliamentary law is over riding than state legislative law. Constitution also has powers to make law with respect to state legislature in following circumstances:
• When Rajya Sabha passes a resolution to that effect
• When national emergency is under operation
• When two or more states request parliament to do so
• When necessary to give effect to international agreements, treaties and conventions
• When President’s rule is in operation.
According to parliamentary form of government executive is responsible to the parliament for its acts and policies. Hence parliament exercises control by various measures like committees, question hour, zero hour etc. ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament.
It includes enactment of budget, scrutinizing the performance of government with respect of financial spending through financial committees (post budgetary control)
Example - To amend the constitution, to pass any laws required
• Impeachment of President for violation of constitution
• Removal of judges of Supreme Court and High court
• Removal of Vice- President
• Punish members for breach of privileges like sitting in the house when the member knows he is not an eligible member, serving as member before taking oath etc.
It has its participation in the election of President and Vice-President. The member of Lok Sabha elects speaker and deputy speaker from among its members. Similarly a member of Rajya Sabha elects deputy chairman.
• To discuss various issues of national and international importance
• Imposing emergency
• Increase or decrease area, change names, alter the boundary of the states
• Create or abolish state legislature etc any powers can be added from time to time.
Article 245 of the constitution declares that parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India and a state legislature can make laws for the whole or any part of the state. Seventh Schedule of the constitution distributes the legislative powers between the centre and the state by putting subjects into Union List, State List and Concurrent List. The centre can make law on any of the subjects in the union list or in the concurrent list. The parliament can override the law of a state on a subject listed in concurrent list. In addition to these powers, the residuary powers are also vested with the parliament. The constitution also empowers the parliament to make law on a state subject in the following circumstances:
(i) When Rajya Sabha passes a resolution supported by two-thirds of the members present and voting
(ii) When a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation
(iii) When two or more states make a joint request to the parliament
(iv) When it is necessary for parliament to implement any international treaty, agreement or convention
(v) When President’s rule is in operation in the state
In India, political executive is a part of the parliament. Parliament exerts control over the executive through procedural devices such as question hour, zero hour, calling attention motion, adjournment motion, half-an-hour discussion, etc. Members of different political parties are elected/nominated to the parliamentary committees. Through these committees, the parliament controls the government. Committee on ministerial assurances constituted by parliament seeks to ensure that the assurances made by the ministries to parliament are fulfilled.
Article 75 of the constitution mentions that the council of ministers remains in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the Lok Sabha. The ministers are responsible to the Lok Sabha individually and collectively. Lok Sabha can remove the council of ministers by passing a no confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. Apart from that, the Lok Sabha can also express lack of confidence in the government in the following ways:
(i) By not passing a motion of thanks on the President’s inaugural address.
(ii) By rejecting a money bill
(iii) By passing a censure motion or an adjournment motion
(iv) By passing a cut motion
(v) By defeating the government on a vital issue
These powers of parliament help in making government responsive and responsible.
Parliament enjoys the supreme authority in financial matters. Executive cannot spend any money without parliament’s approval. No tax can be imposed without the authority of law. The government places the budget before the parliament for approval. The passage of the budget means that the parliament has legalised the receipts and expenditure of the government. The public accounts committee and the Estimates committee keep a watch on the spending of the government. These committees scrutinize the account and bring out the cases of irregular, unauthorised or improper usage in public expenditure.
In this way, parliament exerts budgetary as well as post-budgetary control on the government. If the government fails to spend the granted money in a financial year, the remaining balance is sent back to the Consolidated Fund of India. This is known as ‘rule of lapse’. This also leads to increase in expenditure by the end of the financial year.
Mentioned below are the judicial powers and functions of the parliament:
(i) It has the power to impeach the President, the Vice-President, the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court.
(ii) It can also punish its members or outsiders for the breach of privilege or its contempt.
Mentioned below are the electoral powers and functions of the parliament:
(i) The elected members of the parliament (along with state assemblies) participate in the election of the President
(ii) All the members of the parliament participate in the election of the Vice-President.
(iii) The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
(iv) The Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
(v) Members of various parliamentary committees are also elected.
Only parliament is empowered to initiate any proposal for amendment of the constitution. A bill for amendment can be initiated in either House of Parliament. However, the state legislature can pass a resolution requesting the parliament for the creation or abolition of the legislative council in the state. Based on the resolution, the parliament can make an act for amending the constitution for that purpose.
There are three types of bills for constitution amendment which requires:
(i) Simple Majority: These bills need to be passed by simple majority, that is, a majority of members present and voting in each of the House.
(ii) Special Majority: These bills need to be passed by the majority of the House and two-third of the members present and voting in each of the House.
(iii) Special majority and consent of half of all the state legislatures: These bills are to be passed by the special majority in each house. Along with this, at least half of the state legislatures should give consent to the bill.