Pro Tem, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha | UPSC

Speaker Pro Tem

    • Constitutional Provision: Article 95(1) of the Constitution provides for the office of Speaker Pro tem, appointed by the President.
    • Mentions in the Constitution:
      • The term ‘Speaker Pro tem’ is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution or Lok Sabha rules but is found in the ‘Handbook on the working of Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs’.
      • Traditionally, the senior-most Lok Sabha member is selected by the government and administered oath by the President.
    • Functions: Administers oath to other MPs and presides over the election of the full-time Speaker.

Speaker of Lok Sabha

Constitutional Provision:

    • Article 93 of the Constitution mandates the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker by the Lok Sabha on a date fixed by the President. Historically, Speakers in India have been elected unopposed.

Key Constitutional Functions:

    • Certifies Bills as Money Bills, limiting Rajya Sabha’s role. Example: Speaker Sumitra Mahajan certified the Aadhar Bill as a Money Bill in 2016, which was crucial for its smooth passage despite significant opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
    • Decides on disqualification under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection). Example: Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disqualified nine rebel MLAs from the Congress party in Uttarakhand in 2016 under the anti-defection law.

Other Functions:

Presiding Over House Proceedings:

    • Manages sessions, maintains discipline, and decides the agenda for parliamentary meetings.
    • Example: Speaker Om Birla played a crucial role in maintaining order during the debates on the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019.

Final Interpreter:

    • Interprets the Constitution, Lok Sabha rules, and parliamentary precedents within the House.
    • Example: Speaker Sumitra Mahajan resolved disputes regarding the interpretation of rules during the heated debates on the Land Acquisition Bill in 2015, ensuring that parliamentary procedures were followed correctly.

Constitution of Committees:

    • Forms various parliamentary committees and oversees their functioning, including appointing chairpersons.
    • Example: Speaker Meira Kumar constituted the Public Accounts Committee, ensuring effective auditing of government expenditure.

Bill Referrals:

    • Refers Bills to Standing Committees for detailed examination.
    • Example: Speaker Sumitra Mahajan referred the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill to the Standing Committee on Finance for thorough analysis in 2015.

Motion Adoption:

    • Permits the introduction and discussion of motions, excluding no-confidence motions.
    • Example: Speaker Om Birla allowed a motion of thanks to the President’s address to be debated in the Lok Sabha.

Guardian of Privileges:

    • Protects the rights and privileges of the House, its Committees, and its members.
    • Example: In 2008, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee defended MP Mohammed Salim’s privilege when it was alleged that his phone was tapped by intelligence agencies, referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges.

Member Suspension:

    • Has the authority to suspend members for disorderly conduct or grave breaches of discipline.
      Example: In February 2014, Speaker Meira Kumar suspended 16 MPs for creating a ruckus in the Lok Sabha during protests against the proposed bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

Administrative Authority:

    • Heads the Lok Sabha Secretariat, managing administrative affairs and ensuring smooth functioning.
    • Example: Speaker Om Birla ensured that the Lok Sabha Secretariat provided all necessary support to members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inter-Parliamentary Relations:

    • Serves as the ex-officio President of the Indian Parliamentary Group, fostering inter-parliamentary relations.
    • Example: Speaker Meira Kumar led Indian delegations to Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meetings, promoting parliamentary diplomacy.

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Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha

Constitutional Provisions:

    • Article 93 also provides for the office of Deputy Speaker, with their election fixed by the Speaker.

Constitutional Conventions:

    • Traditionally, the post of Deputy Speaker has been offered to the Opposition since 1991, though this was not followed in the 17th Lok Sabha.


    • Steps in during the Speaker’s absence or vacancy.
    • Presides over joint sittings of both Houses in the Speaker’s absence.
    • Automatically becomes the chairman of any parliamentary committee they are appointed to.

Challenges with the Office of Speaker of Lok Sabha

Partisanship in Disqualification Decisions:

    • Example: In 2016, the Speaker of Arunachal Pradesh, Nabam Rebia, disqualified 16 MLAs of the Congress party. 
    • The decision was controversial because there was no clear evidence that these MLAs had defected or violated party directives, leading to allegations of partisan bias.
    • Prolonged Decisions: Delays in disqualification decisions often favor ruling parties. For instance, in the 2017 Manipur case, a defection complaint against MLAs was pending for years, even though the court had suggested a reasonable period of four weeks for such decisions.

Misuse of Certification Power:

    • Example: The certification of the Aadhar Bill as a Money Bill in 2016 by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was controversial. Many legal experts and opposition members argued that the Bill did not meet the criteria of a Money Bill, which limited the Rajya Sabha’s role in scrutinizing the legislation.

Bypassing Committees and Scrutiny:

    • Referrals of Bills to parliamentary committees decreased significantly from 71% during 2009-14 to only 16% during 2019-24. This reduction undermines parliamentary principles, as detailed scrutiny and consensus-building on important legislative matters are often bypassed.

Suspension of MPs:

    • Example: There have been allegations of partisan suspensions of MPs, such as the large-scale suspensions during the 2023 winter session. Speaker Om Birla suspended multiple opposition MPs for unruly behavior, which was perceived by some as a tactic to suppress dissent.

Lack of Due Deliberation:

    • Restricted debates and discussions on significant Bills often lead to poorly crafted legislation. For instance, the passage of the three farm laws in 2020 without adequate debate and discussion led to widespread protests and their eventual repeal.

Increased Disruptions:

    • A Speaker perceived as biased can lead to frustration and disruptions from the opposition. This hinders the smooth functioning of Parliament. For example, during contentious sessions, opposition parties often stage walkouts or protests, disrupting legislative business and delaying decision-making processes.

Observations of SC and Committees

Partisanship in Disqualification Decisions:

    • Kihoto Hollohan vs. Zachilhu (1993): The Supreme Court ruled that the Speaker’s decisions on disqualification under the Tenth Schedule are subject to judicial review. This landmark judgment ensures that any potential bias or malafide intentions by the Speaker can be challenged in court.
    • Keisham Meghachandra Singh vs. Speaker Manipur Legislative Assembly (2020): The Supreme Court suggested replacing the Speaker with an independent tribunal for disqualification cases. This recommendation arose from concerns over the impartiality of the Speaker in handling disqualification petitions.
    • Nabam Rebia vs. Deputy Speaker (2016): The Supreme Court held that the Speaker cannot decide on disqualification petitions if a notice for their removal is pending. This decision aimed to prevent any conflict of interest and ensure fair adjudication.

Reports and Recommendations:

    • Law Commission (255th Report, 2015): The report advocated for the establishment of an independent mechanism to decide on disqualifications, rather than the Speaker. This recommendation was made to enhance the objectivity and fairness in handling disqualification cases.
    • Parliamentary Standing Committee (2010): This committee recommended replacing the Speaker’s role in disqualifications with an independent body. The aim was to eliminate any potential bias and ensure impartiality in the disqualification process.

Political Neutrality and Best Practices:

    • United Kingdom: In the UK, the Speaker of the House of Commons is required to resign from their political party upon election and only votes in the case of a tie. This practice ensures the Speaker’s neutrality and impartiality in parliamentary proceedings. 
    • Example: Speaker John Bercow resigned from the Conservative Party upon his election as Speaker, demonstrating political neutrality.
    • Germany: The President of the Bundestag (the German federal parliament) is expected to be politically neutral and does not have a casting vote. This ensures that the presiding officer remains impartial.
    • Example: Norbert Lammert, former President of the Bundestag, maintained neutrality and did not participate in party politics during his tenure.
    • V.S. Page Committee: Suggested continuing a Speaker in the next Parliament if they have been impartial and efficient.

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Way Forward

Amendment of the Constitution: 

    • Amending the Constitution to mandate that the Speaker resign from their political party upon election would ensure political neutrality. 
    • This practice is followed in the UK and Germany, where the Speaker must remain impartial and not be influenced by party politics. 

Develop a Comprehensive Code of Conduct:

    • Establishing a code of conduct that enforces impartiality, transparency, and accountability would guide the Speaker’s actions and decisions. This code should be enforced by an independent body to ensure adherence.
    • Example: A code of conduct could prevent actions such as the controversial certification of the Aadhar Bill as a Money Bill, ensuring more transparent and accountable decision-making.

Refer Important Bills to Standing Committees:

    • Ensuring that significant Bills are referred to Standing Committees for detailed scrutiny would enhance the legislative process. This practice would allow for thorough examination and debate, leading to more robust legislation.
    • Example: The referral of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill to the Standing Committee on Finance by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed for comprehensive analysis and input from various stakeholders.

Provide Higher Removal Thresholds for the Speaker:

    • Amending constitutional provisions to require a higher threshold for the removal of the Speaker (e.g., a two-thirds majority) would insulate the Speaker from political pressures and enhance their independence.
    • Example: This change would prevent politically motivated removal attempts, similar to the protection offered to the judiciary, thereby ensuring the Speaker can perform their duties without undue influence.

Regular Training for the Speaker:

    • Implementing regular training programs on parliamentary procedures, leadership, and conflict resolution would equip the Speaker with the necessary skills to perform their role effectively and impartially.
    • Example: Training programs could include sessions on handling disruptions and maintaining order during contentious debates, which would benefit the Speaker during high-stakes sessions like those on controversial legislation.

Empower Committees to Scrutinize the Speaker’s Decisions:

    • Empowering parliamentary committees to review and scrutinize the Speaker’s decisions and actions would enhance accountability and transparency. This practice would provide a check on the Speaker’s powers and ensure decisions are made in the House’s best interest.
    • Example: Committees could review decisions related to member suspensions or the classification of Bills, ensuring that such decisions are fair and in line with parliamentary procedures.


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