The missing Deputy Speaker: What is the post, and what does the Constitution say

Source: The post is based on the article The missing Deputy Speaker: What is the post, and what does the Constitution saypublished in Indian Express on 15th February 2023

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre and five states — Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand — over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.

What are the Constitutional Provisions regarding Deputy Speaker?

Article 93 says that the House of the People (Lok Sabha) shall as soon as may be, choose two members to be Speaker and Deputy Speaker so often as the offices become vacant. However, it does not provide a specific time frame.

Article 178 contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a state.

Note: Constitutional experts point out that both Articles 93 and 178 use the word “shall”, indicating that the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is mandatory under the Constitution.

About the Election of Deputy Speaker

Rule 8 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha says the election of Deputy Speaker “shall be held on such date as the Speaker may fix”. The Deputy Speaker is elected once a motion proposing his name is carried in the House.

Once elected, the Deputy Speaker usually continues in office for the entire duration of the House.

What is the position of Deputy Speaker?

Under Article 95, the Deputy Speaker performs the duties of the Speaker’s office when it is vacant and acts as the Speaker when the latter is absent from the sitting of the House. In both cases, he assumes all the powers of the Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker is not subordinate to the Speaker. He is directly responsible to the House. Consequently, if either of them wishes to resign, they must submit their resignation to the House which implies that the Speaker gives resignation to the Deputy Speaker.

What is the position of the Union government on the current vacancy in the post of Deputy Speaker?

The Central Government has maintained there is no “immediate requirement” for a Deputy Speaker as “bills are being passed and discussions are being held” as normal in the House. 

A Minister argued that there is a panel of nine members — senior, experienced and selected from different parties — who can act as chairpersons to assist the Speaker to run the House.

Can the courts intervene in cases of a delay in electing the Deputy Speaker?

Article 122(1) says: The validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.

However, experts said that the courts do have jurisdiction to at least inquire into why there has been no election to the post of Deputy Speaker since the Constitution does envisage an election “as soon as may be”.

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