Navigating the Transition: The Role of Speaker Pro-Tem in the 18th Lok Sabha | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Navigating the Transition: The Role of Speaker Pro-Tem in the 18th Lok Sabha

Jun 18, 2024 10:46 AM IST

Traditionally, the first two days of the first session of the new Lok Sabha are dedicated solely to the swearing-in of members.

The completion of the general elections has always signaled a significant shift in India’s political landscape, and the 2024 elections are no exception. With the announcement of the results on June 4, 2024, and the subsequent dissolution of the 17th Lok Sabha, yet another new chapter began for India’s democratic polity. On June 5, 2024, exercising her constitutional powers under Sub-clause (b) of Clause (2) of Article 85, the President of India dissolved the 17th Lok Sabha upon the advice of the outgoing Cabinet.

The appointment of the Speaker Pro-Tem follows a well-established convention. (Digital Sansad) PREMIUM
The appointment of the Speaker Pro-Tem follows a well-established convention. (Digital Sansad)

In keeping with established norms, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) presented the 2024 general election results to the President of India. This ritualistic handing over was followed by Election Commission officers presenting the same results to the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha. Consequently, on June 6, 2024, the 18th Lok Sabha was officially constituted, marking the commencement of a new legislative chapter.

The term of office for the members of the new Lok Sabha begins with the publication of the election results by the Election Commission of India (ECI). From this date, June 6, 2024, these members attain the status of “Member Elect.” However, to fully assume their roles, including the right to vote and participate in parliamentary proceedings, these members must take an oath or make an affirmation in accordance with Article 99 of the Constitution.

Also Read:Lok Sabha Speaker elections on June 26; Opposition urges NDA members TDP, JD(U) to push for post

Traditionally, the first two days of the first session of the new Lok Sabha are dedicated solely to the swearing-in of members. This is followed by the election of the Speaker on the third day.

But who oversees this crucial initial phase?

According to the 2nd proviso of Article 94 of the Constitution, the outgoing Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha remains in office until immediately before the first meeting of the new House. Thus, their role concludes at 11am on the first day of the 18th Lok Sabha’s session, leaving the presiding of the house duties to a different figure—the Speaker Pro-Tem.

The Speaker Pro-Tem is a temporary role crucial for the smooth transition of parliamentary proceedings. This position is typically assigned to the senior most member of the new Lok Sabha, determined by the number of terms they have served.

For instance, in the 16th Lok Sabha, Kamal Nath was appointed as the Speaker Pro-Tem due to his nine-term tenure in the Lok Sabha, even though Lal Krishna Advani had a longer overall parliamentary career of eleven-terms, including both Lok Sabha (7) and Rajya Sabha (4) terms.

The appointment of the Speaker Pro-Tem follows a well-established convention.

The government suggests name of a suitable member to the President, who then appoints the Speaker Pro-Tem. This appointment process is managed by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and subsequently notified by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

The Speaker pro-tem of the Lok Sabha takes an oath or affirmation as a member of the house before the President, ideally before the first sitting of the new Lok Sabha. He/She also signs the Roll of Members immediately upon assuming the chair in the house. This is indicative of the Speaker pro-tem having taken seat in the house. While in office, the Speaker pro-tem holds all the powers of the Speaker as per the Constitution and Lok Sabha rules. However, their role is temporary and lasts only until the house elects a permanent Speaker.

The genesis of the office of the Speaker Pro-Tem traces back to the formative years of independent India.

Following the enactment of the Indian Independence Act in 1947, the central legislative bodies dissolved, paving the way for the Constituent Assembly to assume legislative responsibilities alongside its constitution-making mandate.

Dr Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Constituent Assembly, saw the need to separate its roles as a constitution-making body and a legislature.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the Leader of the house, made a proposal to this effect on August 20, 1947. A sub-committee led by GV Mavalankar was formed to discuss the issue. They concluded that the Assembly’s constitution-making work should be distinct from its legislative duties, prompting the election of a Speaker to oversee legislative sessions.

Mavalankar was the sole nominee for the position and was elected Speaker, ensuring independence from the government. He continued in this role until the new Parliament, formed after the first general elections, convened. After the dissolution of the Provisional Parliament, Mavalankar remained Speaker until the first sitting of the First Lok Sabha. He supervised the oath-taking of members alongside M Ananthasayanam Ayyangar. Following this, B Das, the most senior member of the Lok Sabha, was appointed Speaker pro tempore until a new Speaker was elected.

Over the years, the Speaker pro tem has played a pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of parliamentary proceedings. From Seth Govind Das to Jagjivan Ram, each appointment has brought unique contributions, including historical milestones such as Ram’s status as the first from the Scheduled Caste (SC) category to hold the position.

In 2004, Somnath Chatterjee was appointed Speaker pro tem for the 14th Lok Sabha until June 4, 2004.

When Chatterjee became a candidate for Speaker, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil took over until the election. Manikrao Hodlya Gavit served in 2009. While usually the most senior member is chosen, there have been exceptions.

For instance, in 1956, Sardar Hukam Singh was chosen for his future role as Deputy Speaker. In 1977, DN Tiwari was appointed despite not being the most senior.

In 2019, Santosh Kumar Gangwar couldn’t be the Speaker pro tem as he was a Union minister.

Instead, Virendra Kumar, with seven terms as a Lok Sabha member, was chosen, even though Maneka Gandhi, with 8 terms, was next in line. Now, as the 18th Lok Sabha begins, it is interesting to see who will be appointed Speaker pro tem.

The chance of India getting its first female Speaker pro tem seems unlikely. The senior most members in 8th Lok Sabha having one their 8th term are Virender Kumar and K Suresh. Kumar has already been sworn in as a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers.

Now that the summons have been issued for the first session of 18th Lok Sabha (from 24 June to 3 July, 2024), the time for appointment of Speaker Pro-Tem is just round the corner.

 

Ravindra Garimella, former Joint Secretary (Legislation), Lok Sabha Secretariat. 

Priyank Nagpal, former LAMP Fellow

 

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