The fourteenth session of the 14th Lok Sabha — the longest ever — is continuing five months after it started on July 21, and could well go into 2009, if the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government follows a precedence set by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2004.
The NDA government had carried over Lok Sabha’s winter session of 2003 into February 2004, when a seven-day sitting of the House had passed a votes-on-account that authorizes government spending until a proper budget for the next financial year is approved by a new government. Elections took place in April-May 2004.
Like the NDA in 2004, the UPA government too will have to pass a votes-on-account before general elections are announced. It could follow the NDA precedence, and reconvene the ongoing a session in January or February, after a break — that would amount to one session continuing for seven months!
The session started on July 21, convened again from October 17 to 24, then again on December 9. A session of Parliament comes to an end only through a presidential proclamation. If the UPA government does not recommend that proclamation, Parliament can meet again, as continuation of the 14th session.
This year, Parliament had two sessions and not the usual three. “The government is compromising Parliament. Never before has a session continued for such a long time,” said Subhash C. Kashyap, a former secretary general of Lok Sabha.
The first session every year must have an address by the President to a joint session of both Houses. The NDA avoided it all by adjourning the winter session on December 23, 2003 and reconvening it on January 29, 2004 and then dissolving the House on February 6. If the UPA does not take that route, the President will have to make policy pronouncements for a government whose term is about to end.
A brand new session is more likely, given the flak the UPA is already facing for prolonging the current session for political expediency. “If we continue the current session into January, it will be too much,” admitted a minister associated with the decision-making.