Article 108: Joint Sitting of Both Houses of Parliament

Introduction


  • Article 108 of the Indian Constitution provides for a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
  • The joint sitting of the Indian Parliament is a pivotal aspect of India’s democratic system, allowing for the resolution of legislative disputes and ensuring that important bills and issues do not remain stuck in the legislative process.
  • In this blog, we will delve into the concept of a Joint Sitting of the Indian Parliament, its historical background, when and why it occurs, the procedural aspects, its significance, as well as the challenges and criticisms it faces.

Historical Background of Article 108


  • To understand the significance of a Joint Sitting, it’s essential to first look at the historical context of the Indian Parliament.
  • India’s parliamentary system draws inspiration from its colonial past when it was governed by the British.
  • The need for a bicameral legislature, comprising the lower house (Lok Sabha) and the upper house (Rajya Sabha), was felt to ensure a balanced and comprehensive representation of the diverse Indian population.

What is a Joint Sitting?


  • A Joint Sitting of the Indian Parliament refers to the gathering of members of both houses – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – in a single session.
  • This is a rare and exceptional occurrence in India’s parliamentary history.
  • A Joint Sitting is called upon specific situations when there is a deadlock between the two houses on certain legislative matters.

When and Why Does a Joint Sitting Occur?


  • Joint Sittings are not called frequently.
  • They come into play in specific circumstances, primarily when there is a disagreement between the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha regarding the passage of a bill.
  • These disagreements can be due to various reasons such as ideological differences, political considerations, or regional interests.
  • One of the main cause for a Joint Sitting is when the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, rejects a bill passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house, or makes amendments to it that the Lok Sabha does not agree with.
  • In such cases, a deadlock arises, and a Joint Sitting is seen as a mechanism to break this impasse.

Exceptions to Joint Sittings


Money Bills:

  • Joint sittings are not applicable to money bills.
  • Money bills can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha can only make recommendations on them.
  • The Lok Sabha has the final say on money bills, and there is no provision for a joint sitting to resolve disagreements on these bills.

Constitutional Amendment Bills:

  • Joint sittings are not allowed for bills that seek to amend the Constitution of India.
  • Such bills require a special majority (i.e., a majority of the total membership of each house and a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting) in each house separately.

Procedure of a Joint Sitting


  • The procedure for convening and conducting a Joint Sitting is laid down in Article 108 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Here is a step-by-step overview:

Notification:

  • The President of India, upon the advice of the Cabinet, issues a notification for a Joint Sitting.

Summoning:

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over the Joint Sitting.
  • If the Speaker is unavailable, the Deputy Speaker takes on this role.

Voting:

  • During the Joint Sitting, members of both houses cast their votes on the bill.
  • The decision is made by a simple majority, which means that if more members present and voting are in favor of the bill, it is passed.

President’s Assent:

  • After the Joint Sitting approves the bill, it is sent to the President for assent.
  • Once the President gives assent, the bill becomes law.

Significance of Joint Sittings


  • Joint Sittings play a crucial role in India’s parliamentary democracy for several reasons:

Resolution of Deadlocks:

  • Joint Sittings are a mechanism to resolve impasses between the two houses, ensuring that legislation is not held up indefinitely due to differences of opinion.

Democratic Principles:

  • They uphold the principle of parliamentary democracy, where the elected representatives of the people have the final say on important matters.

Legislative Progress:

  • In cases where bills are stuck in a legislative gridlock, Joint Sittings can ensure that vital legislation is enacted, even if it faces opposition in one house.

Consensus Building:

  • Joint Sittings promote consensus and cooperation among political parties, encouraging them to find common ground and work towards the nation’s welfare.

Challenges and Criticisms


  • While Joint Sittings are an integral part of India’s parliamentary system, they are not without criticism and challenges:

Potential for Dominance:

  • Some critics argue that the Lok Sabha, being the larger house and often dominated by the ruling party, can have an unfair advantage in a Joint Sitting, potentially overshadowing the Rajya Sabha.

Political Motivations:

  • Joint Sittings can sometimes be called with political motivations rather than a genuine need to resolve a deadlock. This can lead to misuse of the procedure.

Impact on Minority Voices:

  • Critics also point out that Joint Sittings might not adequately represent the views of minority parties or smaller states, as the majority party often prevails.

Notable Joint Sittings in Indian History


  • A joint session of the Indian Parliament has been called only three times.
  1. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  2. The Banking Services Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1978
  3. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002

Conclusion


  • In conclusion, the Joint Sitting of the Indian Parliament is a crucial mechanism that ensures the legislative process keeps moving forward, even in the face of disagreements between the two houses.
  • It upholds the principles of democracy and consensus-building, though it is not without its challenges and criticisms.
  • The history of Joint Sittings in India reflects the nation’s commitment to democratic governance and its ability to find solutions to complex legislative issues.
  • As India’s political landscape evolves, the role and significance of Joint Sittings will continue to be a vital aspect of the country’s democratic functioning.

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