The Union Legislature

This article analyses the provisions that govern the working of both the Houses of Parliament including the passing of Bills and the qualification and disqualification of members. The article also discusses the privileges enjoyed by members of parliament and methods/working of the parliament in different aspects.

Wed Jun 01 2022 | Govt. Agencies and Taxation | Comments (0)


The Parliament of India consists of the President and two houses. The lower house is called the House of the People- Lok Sabha, while the upper house is known as the Council of States- Rajya Sabha.

The council of ministers shall be composed of not less that 250 members, of whom 12 shall be nominated by the President and the remainder 238 shall be representatives on the States and Union Territories elected by the method of indirect election.

  1. Nomination- The 12 nominated members shall be chosen by the President from amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art and social service.
  2. Representation of States. The representatives of each State shall be elected by the elected members of the Legislative assembly of the State in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a  single transferable vote.
  3. Representation of Union Territories. The representatives of the Union Territories shall be chosen in such a manner as Parliament may prescribe. Under this power, the Parliament has prescribed that the representatives of Union Territories to the Council of States shall be indirectly elected by members of an electoral college for that territory, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.


The House of the People has a varied composition and the Constitution prescribes a maximum number as follows:

  1. Not more than 530 representatives of the States
  2. Not more than 20 representatives of Union Territories
  3. Not more than 2 members of the Anglo-Indian community, nominated by the President, if he is of the opinion that the Anglo Indian community has not been adequately represented in the House of the People.
  4. The representatives of the States shall be directly elected by the people of the state on the basis of adult suffrage. Each citizen who is not less than 18 years of age and is not otherwise disqualified, e.g. by reason of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt illegal practice, shall be entitled to vote at such election.
  5. There shall be no reservation of seats for any minority community other than the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  6. The members of the Union Territories are to be chosen in such manner as Parliament may by law provide.
  7. Two members may be nominated from the Anglo-Indian community by the President to the House of People if he is of the opinion that the Anglo Indian community has not been adequately represented in the House of the People.

The election to the House of People being direct, requires that the territory of India should be divided into suitable territorial constituencies, for the purpose of holding such election.

  1. There shall be allotted in each State a number of seats in the House of the People in the manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, so far as practicable, the same throughout the state.
  2. Each state shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it, so far as practicable, is the same throughout the state. 


As regards the Council of States, proportional representation by single transferable vote has been adopted for the indirect election by the elected members of the Legislative assembly of each State in order to give some representation to minority communities and parties.

Similarly proportional representation is prescribed for election to the legislative council of a State by electorates consisting of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities and of graduates and teachers of three years standing resident in the State.


  1. The Council of States is not subject to dissolution. It is a permanent body, but  1/3 of its members retire on the expiration of every second year, in accordance with the provisions made by Parliament in this behalf. It follows that there will be an election of 1/3 of the membership of the Council of States at the beginning of every third year.
  2. The nominal life of the House of people is 5 years, but it may be dissolved earlier by the president.

The normal term may be extended by an Act passed by the Parliament itself during the period when a 'Proclamation of Emergency' remains in operation. The extension, however, cannot be made for a period exceeding one year at a time and in any case, such extension cannot continue beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation of Emergency ceases to operate.


In order to be chosen as a member of Parliament, a person

  1. must be a citizen of India
  2. must be not less than 30 years of age in case of Council of States and not less than 25 years of age in the case of House of the People.

Additional qualifications maybe prescribed by Parliament by law. A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either house of Parliament-

  1. If he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State (other than an office exempted by Parliament by law) but not a Minister for the Union or for a State.
  2. If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court
  3. If he is an undischarged insolvent;
  4. If he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired citizenship of a foreign State or is under acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign power;
  5. If he is so disqualified by or under any law made by parliament

If any question arises as to whether a member of either House of Parliament has become subject to any of the above disqualifications, the President's decision, in accordance with the opinion of the Election Commission shall be final.


The privileges of each house maybe divided into two groups- a. those which are enjoyed by the members individually, and b. those which belong to each House of Parliament, as a collective body.
The privileges enjoyed by the members individually are

  1. Freedom from arrest- The Civil Procedure Code exempts a member from arrest during the continuance of a meeting of the Chamber or Committee thereof of which he is a member or of a joint sitting of the Chambers or Committees, and during a period of 40 days before and after such meeting or sitting. This immunity is, however, confined to arrest in civil cases and does not extend to arrest on criminal case or under the law of preventive detention.
  2. Freedom of attendance as witness. A member cannot be summoned, without the leave of the House, to give evidence as a witness while Parliament is in session
  3. Freedom of speech- There is freedom of speech within the walls of each house in the sense of immunity of action for anything said therein. While an ordinary citizen's right to speech is subject to the restrictions specified in Atr19(2) such as the law relating to defamation, a Member of Parliament cannot be made liable in any court of law in respect of anything  said in Parliament or any Committee thereof. This, however, does not mean unrestricted licence to speak anything that a member may like, disregarding  the dignity of the House. The freedom of speech is therefore 'subject to the rules' framed by the House under its powers to regulate its internal procedure.
  4. The Constitution imposes another limitation upon the freedom of speech in parliament, namely, there will be no discussion in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of the High Court in the Discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the Judge.

The privileges of the House collectively are-

  1. To exclude strangers from the galleries anytime.
  2. To regulate its internal affairs. Each House of Parliament has the right to control and regulate its proceedings and also to decide any matter arising from within its walls, without the interference of the Courts.
  3. To punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges. The punishment may take the form of admonishment, reprimand or imprisonment.


A Bill other than money or financial bills may be introduced in either House of Parliament and requires passage in both Houses before it can be presented for the President's assent. A bill may be introduced either by a minister or by a private Member. Unless published earlier, the bill is published in the official gazette as soon as  after it has been introduced.


After a bill has been introduced the Member in charge of the Bill may make any  of the following motions in regard to the Bill.

  1. That it be taken into consideration
  2. That it be referred to a select committee
  3. That it be referred to a Joint committee of the House with the concurrence of the other House.
  4. That it be circulated for the purpose of eliciting public opinion thereon.


A Select Committee of the House considers the provisions of the bill and submits its report to the House. After the report is received, a motion that the Bill as returned by the Select Committee be taken into consideration lies. When such a motion is carried, the clauses of the Bill are open to consideration and amendments are admissible.


When a motion that a bill be taken into consideration has been carried and no amendment of the Bill has been made or after the amendments are over, the Member in charge may move for that the bill to be passed. After this motion is carried, the Bill is taken as passed so far as that House is concerned.


When a Bill is passed in one House, it is transmitted to the other House. It then goes through all the stages as in the originating House subsequent to its introduction. The House which receives the Bill from another House can, therefore, take either of the following courses

  1. It may reject the Bill altogether. In such a case provisions of Art.108(1) (a) as to joint sitting may be applied by the President.
  2. It may pass the Bill with amendments. In this case, the Bill will be returned to the originating House. If the House which originated the Bill accepts the Bill as amended by the other House, it will be presented to the President for his assent. If, however, the originating House does not agree to the amendments made by the other House and there is final disagreement as to the amendments between the two Houses, the President may summon a joint sitting to resolve the deadlock.
  3. It may take no action on the Bill, i.e. keep it lying on the  table. In such a case if more than six months elapse from the date of reception of the Bill, the President may summon a joint sitting.


When a Bill is passed by both houses of Parliament, the Bill is presented to the President for his assent. If the President withholds his assent, there is an end to the Bill. If he gives his assent, the Bill becomes an Act from the date of his assent. Instead of either giving or refusing assent, the President may return the Bill for reconsideration of the Houses with a message requesting them to reconsider it. If, however,  the Houses pass the Bill again with or without amendments and the Bill is presented to the president for his assent after such reconsideration, the President shall have no power to withhold his assent from the Bill.


A bill is deemed to be a 'Money Bill' if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters.

  1. the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration, regulation of any tax
  2. the regulation of the borrowing of money by the Government
  3. the custody of the Consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of moneys into or the withdrawal of moneys from any such fund
  4. the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated fund of India
  5. the declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the consolidated fund of India or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure
  6. the receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State or
  7. any matter incidental to any of the matters specified above


Any Bill other than a Money Bill, can become a Law only if it is agreed to by both the Houses.

  1. As regards money Bills the House of the People has the final power of passing it, the other house having the power only to make recommendation for the acceptance of the Hose of People. In case of disagreement over a money bill, thus the lower House has plenary power to override the wishes of the upper Houses i.e. the Council of States.
  2. As regards all other Bills the machinery provided by the Constitution for resolving a disagreement between the two houses of Parliament is a joint sitting of the two Houses

The President may notify to the Houses his intention to summon them for a joint sitting in case of disagreement arising between the two Houses in any of the following ways.

If after a Bill is passed by one of the Houses and transmitted to the other houses

  1. the Bill is rejected by the other House; or
  2. the Houses have finally disagreed as to the amendments to be made in the Bill; or
  3. more than six months have elapsed from the date of reception of the Bill by the other House without the Bill being passed by it.


The Speaker shall preside over the joint sitting

There are restrictions on  the amendments to the Bill which may be proposed at the joint sitting

  1. If, after the passage in one House, the Bill has been rejected or has not been returned by the other House, only such amendments may be proposed  at the joint sitting as are made necessary by the delay in the passage of the Bill.
  2. If the deadlock has been caused because the other House has proposed amendments to which the originating House cannot agree then- amendments necessary owing to the delay in the passage of the Bill as well as - other amendments as are relevant to the matters with respect to which the House have disagreed, may be proposed at the joint sitting.

If at the joint sitting of the two Houses the Bill, with such amendments, if any, as are agreed in the joint sitting, is passed by a majority of the total number of members of both houses present and voting, it shall be deemed for the purposes of this constitution to have been passed  by both the Houses.

The procedure for joint sitting, as prescribed by Art. 108, is confined to Bills for ordinary legislation and does not extend to a Bill for amendment of the Constitution, which must be passed by each Houses separately, by a special majority laid down.

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