Suspension of Member of Parliaments

Suspension of Member of Parliaments

Suspension of Member of Parliaments

Thirty-three Lok Sabha members and 45 Rajya Sabha members, all belonging to the Opposition INDIA group, were suspended for disrupting Parliamentary proceedings, primarily in response to last week’s security breach.

Key Highlights

  • The MPs were suspended due to disruptions related to the security breach incident in Parliament last week.
  • Reasons for Parliamentary Disruptions:
    • Parliamentary disruptions have historical roots and are often driven by various factors.
    • Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research, identified four broad reasons for disorder in legislatures:
      1. Lack of time for MPs to address important matters.
      2. Unresponsive attitude of the government and retaliatory posture by the Treasury benches.
      3. Deliberate disruption by parties for political or publicity purposes.
      4. Absence of prompt action against MPs disrupting proceedings.
    • Tradition of Disruptions:
      • Disruptions inside Parliament have been a longstanding tradition, irrespective of the political party or alliance in opposition.
      • The reasons for disruptions often relate to issues of time allocation, government responsiveness, political motives, and the lack of immediate consequences for disruptive behaviour.
      • All political parties, regardless of their current position, have engaged in disrupting Parliament.
      • Views on disruptions are often influenced by whether a party is in power or in the opposition.
    • Reduced Opposition Influence:
      • Over the years, the Opposition’s influence in determining the Parliamentary calendar has diminished.
      • The government sets the agenda, decides the time allocated to specific issues, and prioritizes its own business.
      • The rules governing Parliamentary proceedings have not been updated for several decades, contributing to an ongoing cycle of disruptions.
    • Authority to Suspend MPs:
      • The power to suspend Members of Parliament (MPs) lies with the Presiding Officers, namely the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
      • The rules governing suspensions are outlined in Rules 373, 374, and 374A for Lok Sabha and Rules 255 and 256 for Rajya Sabha.
    • Colonial Origin:
      • The authority of the Indian Parliament to suspend Members of Parliament (MPs) under Rules 374 and 256 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Lok Sabha (LS Rules) and Rajya Sabha (RS Rules) respectively finds its roots in the colonial legacy of British parliamentary practices.
      • The concept of self-regulation and the power to suspend unruly members can be traced back to the Government of India Act, 1935, which established the Federal Assembly.
      • The legislative body, functioning under colonial rule, adopted British parliamentary practices, thereby shaping the foundational principles of the Indian parliamentary system.
      • The motive behind empowering Parliament to suspend MPs reflects the historical need to maintain order and discipline within the legislative chambers.
    • Constitutional Foundation:
      • The constitutional basis for parliamentary suspension is rooted in Articles 105 and 118 of the Indian Constitution.
      • These articles delineate the powers, privileges, and rules of procedure for the Houses of Parliament, providing the legal framework for disciplinary actions against members who defy the authority of the Chair or persistently disrupt the business of the House.
      • Article 105:
        • This article pertains to the powers and privileges of Members of Parliament (MPs) and the freedom of speech within the parliamentary chambers.
        • It safeguards MPs from legal action for their speech or vote in Parliament, ensuring their independence and uninhibited expression.
        • However, this immunity is not absolute and does not extend to cases of bribery, corruption, or any criminal activities.
      • Article 118:
        • Article 118 empowers each house of Parliament to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business.
        • This includes the authority to establish disciplinary measures, such as rules related to the suspension of members who violate parliamentary norms, disrupt proceedings, or defy the authority of the Chair.
      • Suspension Process:
        • The process typically involves the following steps:
          • The Presiding Officer directs an MP to withdraw from the House for disorderly conduct.
          • If the MP continues to disrupt proceedings, the Presiding Officer can officially “name” the legislator.
          • The House can then move a motion to suspend the named MP until the end of the session.
        • Lok Sabha Rule 374A (2001 Amendment):
          • In 2001, the Lok Sabha introduced Rule 374A, empowering the Speaker to deal with “grave and disorderly conduct.”
          • Under this rule, an MP named by the Speaker automatically stands suspended for five days or the remaining part of the session, eliminating the need for a separate motion for suspension.
        • Rajya Sabha Procedures:
          • The Rajya Sabha has not incorporated the Lok Sabha’s Rule 374A.
          • In the Rajya Sabha, after an MP is named by the Chair, a motion is typically moved to suspend the MPs, and the suspension is adopted by a voice vote.
        • Duration of Suspension:
          • MPs can be suspended for the remainder of the session as a maximum penalty.
          • The House has the authority to reinstate a suspended member at any point by passing a motion.
        • Punishments for Disorderly Conduct:
          • Mild offenses are usually addressed with admonition or reprimand, with reprimand being the more severe punishment.
          • The next level of punishment is the withdrawal, where an MP is directed to leave the House for the remainder of the day’s sitting.
          • Extreme Misconduct:
            • In cases of extreme misconduct, the House may resort to expulsion as a means to rid the House of members deemed unfit for membership.
          • Unchanged Rules Since 1952:
            • The rules related to the suspension of MPs have largely remained unchanged since 1952, with occasional amendments to empower the Presiding Officer, as seen in the Lok Sabha’s Rule 374A.
          • Parliamentarian Suspensions – Trends and Debates
            • While the suspension of Members of Parliament (MPs) is a robust measure, it is not uncommon.
            • In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of suspensions.
            • Since 2019, at least 149 suspensions have been recorded in both Houses combined, compared to 81 in the period 2014-19 and 36 in 2009-14.
            • The issue of suspending MPs has been the subject of ongoing debate, with Presiding Officers seeking ways to address the challenge.
            • The rationale behind such suspensions is often linked to disorders in the House arising from frustration, lack of opportunities for expression, or planned parliamentary offenses for publicity or political motives.
          • Presiding Officer’s Role:
            • The Presiding Officer, whether the Speaker in the Lok Sabha or the Chairman in the Rajya Sabha, plays a crucial role in maintaining balance in the House.
            • There is recognition that disorders may stem from frustration, and dealing with them is relatively easier.
            • However, planned parliamentary offenses and deliberate disruptions present a more challenging scenario.
          • Balance and Democratic Values:
            • Maintaining a balance in the House is crucial for the Presiding Officer.
            • While the enforcement of the Speaker’s authority is essential for smooth proceedings, it is equally important to uphold democratic values and avoid an authoritarian approach.
            • The solution to the issue is viewed as needing to be long-term and consistent with the evolving democratic landscape of India.


Parliamentary Suspension Terms

  • The maximum period of suspension for a member is until the end of the ongoing session.
  • Suspended members are barred from entering the chamber and participating in committee meetings.
  • Suspended members lose the eligibility to give notices for discussions or submissions during their suspension period.
  • Members under suspension forfeit the right to receive replies to their parliamentary questions.


Judicial Intervention in Legislative Proceedings

  • Article 122 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits the questioning of parliamentary proceedings in a court of law.
  • Case Example – Maharashtra Legislative Assembly:
    • Event: In the 2021 Monsoon Session, the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly passed a resolution suspending 12 BJP MLAs for a year.
    • Judicial Involvement: The matter was brought before the Supreme Court.
    • Court Decision: The Supreme Court ruled that the resolution was ineffective in law beyond the remainder of the Monsoon Session.
    • Judicial Assertion:
      • Despite the constitutional restriction, the judiciary has the authority to intervene in cases where legislative actions are deemed legally ineffective or questionable.
      • The court’s role, in this instance, was to interpret the legal validity and scope of the resolution passed by the legislative assembly.