IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

How Parliament meets

17th December, 2020 Polity

Context: The government has said that parties are in favour of doing away with the Winter Session, and that it would be appropriate to have the Budget Session in January.

Sessions of Parliament

  • The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government.
  • The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which currently comprises nine ministers, including those for Defence, Home, Finance, and Law.
  • The decision of the Committee is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
  • India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar.
  • By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
    • The longest, the Budget Session, starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
    • The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
    • The parliamentary year ends with a three week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.
  • A general scheme of sittings was recommended in 1955 by the General Purpose Committee of Lok Sabha. It was accepted by the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but was not implemented.

What the Constitution says

  • The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution, it is based on a provision of The Government of India Act, 1935.
  • This provision specified that the central legislature had to be summoned to meet at least once a year, and the gap between sessions must not be more than six months, and Parliament should meet at least twice a year.

Moved, delayed, stretched

  • Over the years, governments have shuffled around the dates of sessions to accommodate political and legislative exigencies.
  • In 2017, the Winter Session was delayed on account of the Gujarat Assembly elections.
  • In 2011, political parties agreed to cut short the Budget Session so they could campaign for Vidhan Sabha elections in five states.
  • Sessions have also been cut short or delayed to allow the government to issue Ordinances. For example, in 2016, the Budget Session was broken up into two separate sessions to enable the issuance of an Ordinance.

Fewer House sittings

  • Over the years, there has been a decline in the sittings days of Parliament.
  • During the first two decades of Parliament, Lok Sabha met for an average of a little more than 120 days a year. This has come down to approximately 70 days in the last decade.
  • One institutional reason given for this is the reduction in the workload of Parliament by its Standing Committees, which, since the 1990s, have anchored debates outside the House.
  • However, several Committees have recommended that Parliament should meet for at least 120 days in a year.
  • This year, Parliament has met for 33 days. The last time it met for fewer than 50 days was in 2008, when it met for 46 days.