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Powers and Functions of Parliament

The Indian Parliament performs executive, financial, electoral and various other functions. Let us study how these functions are performed.

Legislative Powers and Functions

The main function of the Parliament is to make laws for the whole country related to subjects mentioned in the Union List, the Concurrent List and under special circumstances, on the subjects of the State List also. The Parliament has inclusive rights to make laws on the 97 Subjects listed under the Union list. It is also empowered to make laws on the 47 Subjects of the Concurrent List along with the State Legislatures. In case, both the Parliament and the State Legislature make laws on the same subject of the Concurrent List, the Central law prevails upon the law made by the State, in case there is a clash between the two. The subjects which do not find any mention in all the three lists are called residuary subjects. Only the Parliament is empowered to make laws on them.

All the bills which are introduced in the Parliament have to be passed by both the Houses before sending the same to the President of India for his/her consent. After the consent, every bill becomes a law. The passage of this bill from its introduction to becoming a law has been explained later in this chapter.

Executive Powers and Functions

In a Parliamentary system, the executive which runs the administration must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament, especially in the Lok Sabha which represents the people. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers individually as well as collectively are responsible to the Parliament. The Parliament maintains its control over the Executive and ensures that the Executive does not overstep its jurisdiction and remains responsible to the Parliament. Some of the ways to keep a check on a minister or the Council of Ministers are as follows:

  1. The first hour of every working day in both the Houses is used for asking questions and supplementary questions. This enables the members to seek information about matters related to any issue. The minister concerned has to answer the questions which are sent in advance. This fixed hour is called Question Hour.
  2. Parliament provides ample opportunities to the members to discuss any matter before the House. This gives an opportunity to the opposition members to criticise the government and members of the ruling party to support if something happens when a bill is passed.
  3. The Parliament also exercises control over the ministers holding charge of different departments through various motion.

Different types of motion

Adjournment Motion

Any member of the Parliament may move the adjournment motion for discussion on an important and urgent issue. A full debate is allowed on the issue if the Speaker in Lok Sabha or Chairman of Rajya Sabha admits it.

Calling Attention Motion

Whenever, there arises an important issue of urgent nature related to public importance, Calling Attention Motion is moved in the House to draw the attention of the Government.

Half an Hour Discussion

It provides another opportunity to the members to express their views on a particular topic to corner the government.

Passing of the Annual Budget

It involves discussion where the opposition gets best opportunity to criticise the government as a whole. The disapproval of the budget is considered as an expression of lack of confidence.

No Confidence Motion

This motion can be used by Lok Sabha members only. Any member of Lok Sabha may move a resolution after the required formalities to expressing lack of confidence in the Council of Ministers. It is here that most of the opposition members try to bring out the lapses and the weaknesses of the government to censor it or to bring it down in the eyes of the people. The ruling party replies to the points raised and defends itself. As long as the ruling party has comfortable majority, there is no danger of defeat. Infact, it is a test of strength, especially in coalition governments.

Financial Powers and Functions

Parliament is considered to be the custodian of public money. No taxes can be realised or money be spent without the approval of the Parliament. Therefore, the annual budget is approved by the Parliament. But the real financial powers lie with the Lok Sabha, (House of the People). According to the Constitution, a Money Bill can be introduced in Lok Sabha only. After it is passed by the Lok Sabha, it is sent to Rajya Sabha for its consideration. Rajya Sabha is supposed to pass or return it with or without any recommendation within 14 days. Lok Sabha may or may not accept the recommendations of Rajya Sabha and the Money Bill is deemed to have been passed.

Electoral Powers and Functions

All the elected members of both the Houses of Parliament form part of the Electroral College to elect the President and the Vice President of India. Besides this, members of Lok Sabha elect their Speaker as well as Deputy Speaker where as members of Rajya Sabha elect their Deputy Chairman only.

Constituent Powers and Functions

The Parliament of India is empowered to amend the provisions of the Constitution, though in a limited way due to the federal character of India according to the method laid down in Article 368. An Amendment Bill may be introduced in either House of the Parliament. After it is passed by each House separately by the special majority, it is sent to the President for his/her consent. Most parts of the Indian Constitution are amended by special majority. But there are certain provisions which need ratification by at least half of the State Legislatures besides being passed by the Parliament. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that Parliament cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

Judicial Powers and Functions

The judges of the Supreme Court, High Courts, the President of India and the Vice President may be removed from office through the process of impeachment about which you have read in the previous chapter.

Miscellaneous Powers and Functions

Some of the functions other than mentioned above are also performed by the Parliament:

  1. Proclamation of Emergency declared by the President of India through an Ordinance has to be approved by both the Houses of the Parliament.
  2. Splitting a State to form a new State, merger of two States or changing the boundaries or the name of a State needs Parliament’s approval.
  3. It is optional for the States to have a Legislative Council or not. If the concerned State Assembly requests the Parliament, to create or abolish the State Legislative Council, the process has to be approved by both the Houses of the Parliament.