The House of the people is presided over by the Speaker who is elected by the House from among its own members. The office of the Speaker has been held in great esteem throughout the history of over three hundred years of Parliamentary Government in Britain. This is because of the manner in which he has discharged his responsibilities as a presiding officer; the detachment and objectivity which he brought to bear upon all his decision, that the framers of Indian Constitution were quite conscious of this role of impartiality of the Speaker is evident from the provisions in the Constitution that deal with the office of the Speaker. For instance, Article 94 (c) provides for the removal of the Speaker by a resolution of the House passed by a majority of all the then members of the House. Removal of officers from their position in this manner, namely, by such special resolutions and by such special majorities is restricted to only a few officers such as the President, the Vice-President, the Presiding Officers of both House of Parliament, Judges of the Supreme Court, etc, as these officers are expected to discharge their responsibilities without political and party considerations.
What is the significance of the office of Speaker?
The importance of the office of the Speaker can be seen also from the functions that he performs and the powers that he exercises.
- He presides over the meetings of the House.
- He adjourns the House or suspends its meeting if there is no quorum.
- While questions are decided in the House, he is not entitled to vote in the first instance (which emphasizes his impartiality) but he shall exercise a casting vote in case of a tie.
- Any member of the House who resigns his office should address his letter of resignation to the Speaker.
- The decision of the Speaker as to whether or not a Bill is a money bill shall be final. The Speaker will have to endorse or certify it before such a Bill is transmitted to the Council of States or presented to the President for his assent.
- He will be consulted along with the Chairman of the Council of States by the President while making rules of procedure with respect to joint sittings of the two House. In such sittings it is the Speaker’s right to preside.
- In conformity with the Speaker’s power to conduct the business of the House, he is empowered to allow any member to speak in his mother tongue, if he cannot adequately express himself either in Hindi or English.
- With respect to the discharge of his powers and functions, the Speaker is not answerable to anyone except the House.
- No court of law can go into the merits of a ruling given by the Speaker.
Additional functions of the Speaker
In addition to the constitutional provisions, the Rules of Procedure of the House confer upon the Speaker a variety of powers in the detailed conduct of the business of the House. Under these:
- His decision to admit notices of questions, motions, resolutions, bills, amendments, etc. is final.
- There are certain guiding principles which the Rules of Procedure lay down for determining the admissibility of notices of motions, etc. The interpretation of these rules as well as their application to specific situations and circumstances is the prerogative of the Speaker.
- He is the sole authority for giving priority or urgency to a matter so that it may be placed before the House in the national interest.
- He is not expected to give reasons for his decisions which cannot be challenged by any member.
- His powers to maintain discipline in the House and to conduct its proceedings in accordance with the rules are formidable.
- Similarly his powers in connection with the Constitution as well as the working of Parliamentary Committees also are enormous.
- The Speaker is thus the guardian and custodian of the rights and privileges of the members, both in their individual capacity and on the group or party basis
- The Speaker, in short, is the representative of the House in its powers, proceedings and dignity.
A special feature of the Speaker’s office is that even when the House is dissolved, the Speaker does not vacate his office. He will continue in office until a new Speaker is elected when the new House meets. Parliament is empowered to fix the salary and allowances of the Speaker and these are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.