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Legislative Procedure in the Parliament

The basic function of the Parliament is to make laws for which a definite procedure is followed. A bill is a draft of the proposed law. Any bill which is moved by a minister is called a Government Bill and the one moved by a member of the Parliament but not by a minister is called Private Member’s Bill. Although, every member of the Parliament has a right to move an Ordinary Bill, yet it is rarely done due to lack of support to the individual in a multi-party system. The bills can also be categorised as Money Bills and the Ordinary Bills.

The Bills that deal with money matters, financial obligation, revenue and expenditure etc, are called Money Bills. Such bills are introduced by a minister only. Non-money Bills are called Ordinary Bills. Some non-money bills become Constitution Amendment Bills also, if they aim at amending any provision of the Constitution. Let us now try to understand how these bills pass through several stages before they become law.

Ordinary Bills

First Reading

First Reading of the bill starts with the introduction of the bill in either of the two Houses of Parliament. A request for its introduction along with aims and objectives of the bill is sent to the Presiding Officer. Every bill introduced in the House has to be published in the gazette. On the appointed date, the Minister moves the motion for leave to introduce the bill. If permitted to do so by the House, it is formally introduced.

Second Reading

Second Reading of the Bill is the most important stage in law making. It is here that a general discussion and a clause by clause discussion on the bill is held with or without amendments. After this the House has four options:

  1. The bill may be immediately taken into consideration by the House for clause by clause discussion;
  2. It may be referred to the Select Committee of the House;
  3. It may be referred to a Join-Select Committee of both the Houses;
  4. It may be circulated among the people for eliciting public opinion.

In case the House decides to immediately take up the bill for consideration for clause by clause discussion, it is debated; amendments are proposed and put to vote for acceptance or rejection. If the bill is passed, it is sent to the other House where the same procedure is repeated. If the bill is referred to a Select Committee or Joint Committee of both the Houses, its clause by clause examination takes place, experts or representatives of various sections are heard to know their opinion amendments are proposed and a report is submitted in the House on the appointed date. After this the bill is considered clause by clause, and amendments put to vote. If accepted by majority of members present and voting, the amendments are carried otherwise rejected. This completes the second reading of the bill.

Third Reading

At this stage, Minister in charge of the bill asks the House to adopt the bill. Normally no discussion takes place at this stage. The bill is put to vote. If accepted by majority of members present and voting, the bill is passed and is now sent to the other House where it will pass through the same stages and procedure as in the first House.

After the bill is passed in the second House, it is sent back to first House for onwards presentation to the President of India for his/her assent. If the President signs the bill, it becomes an Act or law. The President may also withhold the bill for sometime before taking any decision on it. In case he/ she returns it for reconsideration, it has to be passed again by both the Houses with or without amendments. This time, the President has to give his/her assent.

In case of disagreement of both the Houses, there is a provision for Joint Sitting of both the Houses. Such a joint sitting of Parliament is summoned by the President and is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker. If approved by majority, the bill is deemed to have been passed and is sent to the President for his/her assent.

Joint sitting

  • The First joint sitting of the Parliament was held is 1961 to adopt the Dowry Prohibition Bill.
  • The Second joint sitting was held in 1978 to adopt Banking Service Commission Abolition Bill.
  • Another joint sitting was held is 2002 to adopt the bill to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO).

Money Bill

A Money Bill can be introduced in Lok Sabha only and that too, with the prior permission of the President. It passes through the same three stages of first, second and third reading. When it is passed by Lok Sabha, it is sent to Rajya Sabha for consideration. Unlike an Ordinary Bill, Rajya Sabha cannot reject a Money Bill. So, the alternatives before the Rajya Sabha are:

  1. to pass the bill as it is, before sending it to the President for assent.
  2. to return the bill to Lok Sabha with some recommendations. The Lok Sabha may reject all or any of the recommendations after which the bill is considered to have been passed by both the Houses.
  3. may retain the Money Bill for a maximum period of 14 days but has to return the same with or without any recommendations.

In any case, it is considered to have been passed by both the Houses and directly sent to the President for his/her assent. Now, the President has no option but to sign it because prior permission to introduce the bill has already been sought.

The Budget

The Budget is an annual financial statement showing annual expected revenue and expenditure of public money. It is not a Bill. It is presented in the Parliament (Lok Sabha) in two parts i.e. Rail Budget and the General Budget. Railway Minister presents the Rail Budget whereas the presentation of General Budget is the responsibility of the Finance Minister.

After a general discussion, the members may ask questions which the minister replies. Now the demands of each ministry or department are discussed and put to vote. For this, a new system of Departmental Select Committees has been introduced since 1993-94. The Lok Sabha sets up committees for all major ministries and Departments of the Union Government. These Committees discuss, scrutinise and recommend the budget demands and make recommendations which are voted in the House and accepted without much debate.