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Deputy Speaker

Context: The Supreme Court of India recently issued notices to the Union Government and five States over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.

More on Deputy Speaker

  • A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court (SC) that contends that not electing a Deputy Speaker to the 17th (present) Lok Sabha is “against the letter and spirit of the Constitution”.
  • Against this backdrop, SC issued notices to the Union Government and five States; Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.

Constitutional Provisions for Deputy Speaker

  • Article 93: It says that the House of the People shall, as soon as may be, choose two members to be the Speaker and Deputy Speaker and, so often as the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker becomes vacant, the House shall choose another member.
  • Article 178: It contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a State.
  • Article 94:  Article 94 provides for vacation/resignation/removal of Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of the People.
    • Under it, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker shall vacate his office if he ceases to be a member of the House.
    • They may also resign to each other, or may be removed from office by a resolution of the House of the People passed by a majority of all the then members of the House.
    • Article 179 provides similar provisions for State Assemblies.

Rules for Election of Deputy Speaker

  • Mandatory Election: Both Articles 93 and 178 use the word “shall”, indicating that the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is mandatory under the Constitution.
  • Time Frame: There is no specific time frame mentioned in the Constitution for the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker. All that the Constitution says is the election must be held as soon as possible.
  • Tenure: Once elected, the Deputy Speaker usually continues in office for the entire duration of the House. 
  • Convention: The practice in both Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies has been to elect the Speaker during the first session of the new House.
    • The election of the Deputy Speaker usually takes place in the second session.
      •  It is generally not delayed further in the absence of genuine and unavoidable constraints.
      • It has been usual practice to offer the post of Deputy Speaker to the Opposition (since 10th Lok Sabha).
  • Rule 8: Rule 8 of The Rules of Procedure and Conduct in Lok Sabha says that 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.
  • Vacant Post: The House is informed of the resignation of the Speaker by the Deputy Speaker and if the office of the Deputy Speaker is vacant, by the Secretary-General who receives the letter of resignation in that House.
    • Dr BR Ambedkar had stressed in the Constituent Assembly that the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker must tender their resignations to the House which is the appointing authority.
      • Consequently, the provision was made that the resignation should be addressed either to the Speaker or to the Deputy Speaker, because it is they who represent the House.
    • When the Offices of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker fall vacant, the duties of the Office of the Speaker are performed by such Member of the Lok Sabha as the President may appoint for the purpose.
      • The person so appointed is known as the Speaker pro tem.

Powers and Functions of Deputy Speaker

  • Article 95(1): According to it, while the office of Speaker is vacant, the duties of the office shall be performed by the Deputy Speaker.
  • Same Powers as Speaker: In general, the Deputy Speaker has the same powers as the Speaker when presiding over a sitting of the House.
    • All references to the Speaker in the Rules are deemed to be references to the Deputy Speaker when he presides.
    • The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are the Presiding Officers of the Lok Sabha.
  • Independent of Speaker:  The Deputy Speaker is independent of the Speaker, not subordinate to him, as both are elected from among the members of the House.
  • Appeal: It has been held that no appeal lies to the Speaker against a ruling given by the Deputy Speaker or any person presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker.
  • Stature: Since Independence, the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker’s position has grown in importance. The Deputy Speaker has chaired committees both inside and outside of Parliament.
  • Ensures Continuity: The Deputy Speaker ensures the continuity of the Speakers office by acting as the Speaker when the office becomes vacant by death or because of resignation.
  • Presides Over Proceedings: When a resolution for removal of the Speaker is up for discussion, the Constitution specifies that the Deputy Speaker presides over the proceedings of the House.
  • Special Privilege: One of his special privileges as Deputy Speaker is that when he is appointed as a member of a Parliamentary Committee, he automatically becomes its Chairman.

Disqualification of Deputy Speaker

  • Tenth Schedule: The anti-defection says that a person who has been elected Speaker/ Deputy Speaker shall not be disqualified if:
    • He, by reason of his election to that office, voluntarily gives up the membership of the political party to which he belonged immediately before such election and,
    •  Does not, so long as he continues to hold such office, rejoin that political party or become a member of another political party.
    • This exemption applies to the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, Chairman/ Deputy Chairman of a state Legislative Council, and Speaker/ Deputy Speaker of a state Legislative Assembly as well.

Can Courts Intervene in Case of Delay in Electing the Deputy Speaker?

  • In 2021, a petition was filed before the Delhi High Court, which argued that delay in the election of the Deputy Speaker violated Article 93.
    • However, there is no precedent of a court forcing the legislature to elect the Deputy Speaker.
  • Courts usually don’t intervene in the procedural conduct of Parliament.
  • According to Article 122(1), the validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.
  • However, 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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SC issued notices to the Union Government and which five States over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker?

SC issued notices to the Union Government and five States; Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.

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