The UPA government plans to call a special session to get the food security bill passed after it deferred a move to bring in an ordinance to implement the legislation, but there has been no such precedent in the country’s six decade old parliamentary history so far.
Records show no government has ever opted to get any legislation cleared in a special session though three bills have been passed in joint sittings of both houses— The Dowry Prohibition Act in 1967, the Banking Regulation Act in 1980 and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2002.
But special sessions have so far been largely ceremonial. The last time the government convened a special session was on May 13, 2012 to commemorate the 60 years of Indian parliament. Prior to that, US president Barack Obama addressed a special session of parliament on November 8, 2010.
The government had also convened a special midnight session of parliament in 1997 to celebrate 50 year of India’s independence. Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi had performed for the session. This was followed by a similar session in 2007 to commemorate the 60 year of independence.
“Governments can call special sessions any time. There is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about it…So far, special sessions have been largely ceremonial,” former Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Achary said.
Since the special sitting would not have question hour, the government does not require the notice period of 10-15 days to summon the session. Both the houses of parliament will focus and deliberate only on the listed agenda – in this case the food security bill.
The UPA government has now virtually ruled out the ordinance route to implement the legislation, a pet project of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and an important element in the Congress manifesto for 2009 elections, following resistance from within and outside.