[Answered] In light of various controversies, critically examine the role of speaker in Parliamentary Democracy.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the role of Speaker of the Lok Sabha in a Parliamentary democracy and various issues related to it. Conclusion. Way forward.

India is a parliamentary democracy where the Parliamentary proceedings are headed by the Speaker in the Lok Sabha. A parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to a legislative parliament to make the necessary laws and decisions for the country. In a parliamentary democracy, the Speaker represents the dignity and the freedom of the House and the country’s freedom and liberty. But the role of speaker has been criticised for favouring political parties and remaining biased to the party in majority.

Role of Speaker of the Lok Sabha in a Parliamentary democracy:

  1. Ensure smooth proceedings of the house:The Speaker presides over the meetings of the Lok Sabha and conducts its proceedings. He also presides over the joint sittings of the two Houses of the Parliament. Therefore it enables parliament to successfully carry over the debates and passage of important laws.
  2. Maintain discipline in the Lok Sabha: The Speaker maintains discipline in the House. If any member disrupts or tries to disrupt the proceedings of the House, the Speaker can warn him or can ask him to leave the House. He can suspend a member from the House whom he finds guilty of violating the discipline and decorum. This ensures the smooth functioning of Lok Sabha.
  3. Fix the Agenda of the House: The Speaker, in consultation with other members of the business committee of the House and the Prime Minister, fixes the agenda of the meetings of the House. This ensures timely debates and discussion on important issues of the country.
  4. Permission to ask questions: Each member of the House can put questions to the ministers; the permission of the Speaker is required purpose. This helps the speaker to prevent unnecessary and politically motivated questions while ensuring discussion on the important questions.
  5. Conduct the business of the House: The Speaker conducts the business of the House. He allows the members to introduce the bills or to move motions. He recognises the members on the floor of the House and gives them time for speaking in the House. He fixes time limit for the debates in the House, puts matters to vote, and announces the results. He can warn the members against the use of unparliamentary language and can order the same to be expunged from the records.
  6. Interpretation of Rules of Procedure:The business of the House is conducted according to definite and settled rules of procedure. In case of any dispute regarding the rules of the House, the Speaker interprets and applies these rules. The interpretation of rules made by the Speaker is final and cannot be challenged.
  7. Power to adjourn the House: The Speaker can adjourn the meetings of the House if the quorum of the House is not complete or if the conducting the business of the House is not possible due to a disorderly behaviour of its members. This ensures the presence of members in the parliament; performing his/her duties as mandated by citizens by electing him/her.

Criticism faced by office of the Speaker:

  1. Impartiality: In a parliamentary democracy office of speaker should be fair and impartial but they are usually elected to the House on a political party’s ticket. In Britain, the Speaker is strictly a non-party man. There is a convention that the Speaker has to resign from his party and remain politically neutral. This healthy convention is not fully established in India where the Speaker does not resign from the membership of his party on his election to the speaker office. This makes it more of a political liability on the speaker to favour his party.
  2. Anti-defection law: In recent times, there are a number of instances where the role of speaker has been criticised for disqualification of MLAs under the anti-defection law and their ruling has been challenged in courts. In two recent cases, prior to dismissal of governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, the Speakers in both assemblies had helped ruling parties by using their powers to disqualify MLAs under the 10th Schedule.
  3. Discretionary power: There are various instances where the Rules vest the Speakers with unbridled powers such as in case of declaration of bill as money bill (Lok Sabha Speaker). This discretionary power comes under criticism when the Aadhar bill was introduced in Lok Sabha as Money Bill.
  4. Review of the Speaker’s Decisions: Under the Rules, the Speaker is not answerable to any person in performing the roles assigned to him. Decisions of presiding officers are final and are not open to appeal or subject to review. This is in stark contrast with the American system, where the presiding officer’s decisions may be appealed against to a committee. In India, a member of the House may strongly disagree with the determination of the Speaker, but as per the Rules, he does not have any recourse apart from pursuing his interests through parliamentary procedures. In the Kihoto Hollohan case, the SC declared that the speaker is subject to judicial review.
  5. Increased disruptions: Frequent disruptions reduced the time required for important discussions and compel speakers to allocate less time for discussion. This often questions the impartiality of the speaker as he allegedly provides more time to the ruling party. Also, it is alleged that the speaker took harsh punishment against the disrupting member of opposition compared to the government.

The Speaker plays the crucial role of ensuring that the Parliament carries forward its role of legislation peacefully, maintaining harmony in the Houses of Parliament and taking crucial procedural decisions of the House. The Speaker is considered as the true guardian of the Indian Parliamentary democracy, holding the complete authority of the Lok Sabha. Thus, impartiality of the office is very important to make parliamentary democracy work in true sense.

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