Lawmaking procedure in India
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India is a democracy having quasi-federal structure of Government. Laws are made separately at different levels, by the Union Government (i.e. The Government of India/ Federal Government/ Central Government) for the whole country and by the State Governments for their respective states as well as by local municipal councils at district level. The Legislative procedure in India for the Union Government requires that proposed bills pass through the two legislative houses of the Indian parliament, i.e. the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The legislative procedure for states with bicameral legislatures requires that proposed bills be passed, first in the state's Lower House or the Vidhan Sabha and then in the Upper House or the State Vidhan Parishad. For states with unicameral legislatures, laws and bills need to be passed only in the state's Vidhan Sabha, for they don't have a Vidhan Parishad. Overall this is similar to the 'House of Commons' and the 'House of Lords' in UK.
- 1 Difference between a Bill and an Act
- 2 How a Bill becomes an Act in Parliament
- 3 Money Bills
- 4 References
Difference between a Bill and an Act
Legislative proposals are brought before either house of the Parliament of India in the form of a bill. A bill is the draft of a legislative proposal, which, when passed by both houses of Parliament and assented to by the President, becomes an Act of Parliament. As soon as the bill has been framed, it has to be published in the news papers and the general public is asked to comment in a democratic manner. The bill may then be amended to incorporate the public opinion in a constructive manner and then may be introduced in the Parliament by ministers or private members. The former are called government bills and the latter, private members' bills. Bills may also be classified as public bills and private bills. A public bill is one referring to a matter applying to the public in general, whereas a private bill relates to a particular person or corporation or institution. The Orphanages and Charitable Homes Bill or the Muslim Waqfs Bills are examples of private bills.
How a Bill becomes an Act in Parliament
A Bill is the draft of a legislative proposal. It has to pass through various stages before it becomes an Act of Parliament. There are three stages through which a bill has to pass in one House of Parliament. The procedure is similar for the Legislative Assemblies of States.
The legislative process begins with the introduction of a Bill in either House of Parliament, i.e. the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. A Bill can be introduced either by a Minister or by a private member. In the former case it is known as a Government Bill and in the latter case it is known as a Private Member's Bill. It is necessary for a member-in-charge of the Bill to ask for the leave of the House to introduce the Bill. If leave is granted by the House, the Bill is introduced. This stage is known as the First Reading of the Bill. If the motion for leave to introduce a Bill is opposed, the Speaker may, in his discretion, allow a brief explanatory statement to be made by the member who opposes the motion and the member-in-charge who moved the motion. Where a motion for leave to introduce a Bill is opposed on the ground that the Bill initiates legislation outside the legislative competence of the House, the Speaker may permit a full discussion thereon. Thereafter, the question is put to the vote of the House. However, the motion for leave to introduce a Finance Bill or an Appropriation Bill is forthwith put to the vote of the House.
Publication in the official Gazette
After a Bill has been introduced, it is published in The Gazette of India. Even before introduction, a Bill might, with the permission of the Speaker, be published in the Gazette. In such cases, leave to introduce the Bill in the House is not asked for and the Bill is straightaway introduced.
Reference of Bill to a Standing Committee
After a Bill has been introduced, the Presiding Officer of the concerned House (Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or anyone acting on their behalf) can refer the Bill to the concerned Standing Committee for examination and to prepare a report thereon. If a Bill is referred to a Standing Committee, the Committee shall consider the general principles and clauses of the Bill referred to them and make a report thereon. The Committee can also seek expert opinion or the public opinion of those interested in the measure. After the Bill has thus been considered, the Committee submits its report to the House. The report of the Committee, being of persuasive value, shall be treated as considered advice.
The Second Reading consists of consideration of the Bill which occurs in two stages.
- First stage
The first stage consists of general discussion on the Bill as a whole when the principle underlying the Bill is discussed. At this stage it is open to the House to refer the Bill to a Select Committee of the House or a Joint Committee of the two Houses or to circulate it for the purpose of eliciting opinion thereon or to straightaway take it into consideration.
If a Bill is referred to a Select/Joint Committee, the Committee considers the Bill clause-by-clause just as the House does. Amendments can be moved to the various clauses by members of the Committee. The Committee can also take evidence of associations, public bodies or experts who are interested in the measure. After the Bill has thus been considered, the Committee submits its report to the House which considers the Bill again as reported by the Committee. If a Bill is circulated for the purpose of eliciting public opinion thereon, such opinions are obtained through the Governments of the States and Union Territories. Opinions so received are laid on the Table of the House and the next motion in regard to the Bill must be for its reference to a Select/Joint Committee. It is not ordinarily permissible at this stage to move the motion for consideration of the Bill.
- Second Stage
The second stage of the Second Reading consists of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill as introduced or as reported by Select/Joint Committee. Discussion takes place on each clause of the Bill and amendments to clauses can be moved at this stage. Amendments to a clause have been moved but not withdrawn are put to the vote of the House before the relevant clause is disposed of by the House. The amendments become part of the Bill if they are accepted by a majority of members present and voting. After the clauses, the Schedules if any, clause 1, the Enacting Formula and the Long Title of the Bill have been adopted by the House, the Second Reading is deemed to be over.
Thereafter, the member-in-charge can move that the Bill be passed. This stage is known as the Third Reading of the Bill. At this stage the debate is confined to arguments either in support or rejection of the Bill without referring to the details thereof further than that are absolutely necessary. Only formal, verbal or consequential amendments are allowed to be moved at this stage. In passing an ordinary Bill, a simple majority of members present and voting is necessary. But in the case of a Bill to amend the Constitution, a majority of the total membership of the House and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting is required in each House of Parliament. If the number of votes in favour and against the bill are tied, then the Presiding officer of the concerned House can cast his/her vote, referred to as a Casting Vote Right.
Bill in the other House
After the Bill is passed by one House, it is sent to the other House for concurrence with a message to that effect, and there also it goes through the stages described above, except the introduction stage. If a Bill passed by one House is amended by the other House, it is sent back to the originating House for approval. If the originating House does not agree with the amendments, it shall be that the two houses have disagreed. The other House may keep a money bill for 14 days and an ordinary Bill for three months without passing (or rejecting) it. If it fails to return the Bill within the fixed time, the Bill is deemed to be passed by both the houses and is sent for the approval of the President.
Joint session of both Houses
In case of a deadlock between the two houses or in a case where more than six months lapse in the other house, the President may summon, though is not bound to, a joint session of the two houses which is presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the deadlock is resolved by simple majority. Until now, only three bills: the Dowry Prohibition Act (1961), the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill (1978) and the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (2002) have been passed at joint sessions.
When a bill has been passed, it is sent to the President for his approval. The President can assent or withhold his assent to a bill or he can return a bill, other than a money bill which is recommended by president himself to the houses, with his recommendations. If the President gives his assent, the bill is published in The Gazette of India and becomes an Act from the date of his assent. If he withholds his assent, the bill is dropped, which is known as absolute veto. The president can exercise absolute veto on aid and advice of council of ministers. Following position can be arrived by reading article 111 of Indian constitution with article 74. The president may also effectively withhold his assent as per his own discretion, which is known as pocket veto. The pocket veto is not written in the constitution and has only been exercised once by President Zail Singh: in 1986, over the postal act where the government wanted to open postal letters without warrant. If the president returns it for reconsideration, the Parliament must do so, but if it is passed again and returned to him, he must give his assent to it. In the case of a Constitutional Amendment Bill, the President is bound to give his assent. In case of the State Governments, the consent of the State's Governor has to be obtained.
Coming into force
Generally most Acts will come into force, or become legally enforceable in a manner as prescribed in the Act itself. Either it would come into effect from the date of assent by the President (mostly in case of Ordinances which is later approved by the Parliament), or a specific date is mentioned in the Act itself (mostly in case of Finance Bills) or on a date as per the wish of the Central or the State Government as the case may be. In case the commencement of the Act is as made as per the wish of the government, a separate Gazette notification is made, which is mostly accompanied by the Rules or subordinate legislation in another gazette notification.
Bills which exclusively contain provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund, etc., are certified as Money Bills. Money Bills can be introduced only in Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to a Money Bill passed by the Lok Sabha and sent to it. It can, however, recommend amendments in a Money Bill, but must return all Money Bills to Lok Sabha within fourteen days from the date of their receipt. The Lok Sabha can choose to accept or reject any or all of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha with regard to a Money Bill. If Lok Sabha accepts any of the recommendations of Rajya Sabha, the Money Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses with amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha and accepted by Lok Sabha. If Lok Sabha does not accept any of the recommendations of Rajya Sabha, the Money Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha without any of the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha. If a Money Bill passed by Lok Sabha and transmitted to Rajya Sabha for its recommendations is not returned to Lok Sabha within the said period of fourteen days, it is deemed to have been passed by both Houses at the expiration of the said period in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha.
- "HOW A BILL BECOMES AN ACT". http://www.parliamentofindia.nic.in. Retrieved 8 May 2015. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Is any deadlock between the two Houses possible?". rajyasabha.nic.in. rajyasabha. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
- "Amendments to Sebi Act gets Presidential assent". PTI. 18 Sep 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
It has now been published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, Section-1, dated the 13th September 2013 as Act No. 22 of 2013
- "The president’s power of withholding assent". Guyana Times. 1 October 2013.
- Gupta, V. P. (26 Aug 2002). "The President’s role". Times of India. Retrieved 4 January 2012.