- In 1952, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha published their respective Rules of Procedure. These Rules laid down the details of how the two Houses would function. They also specified the different procedural mechanisms by which Members of Parliament (MPs) could participate in the functioning of the two legislative chambers. These rules have changed over the last seven decades, but the basic principles remain unchanged.
- To raise matters in the House, MPs must inform the presiding officers (the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of Lok Sabha) in advance.
- The government also has its agenda of Bills and budgets. It too is required to give advance information so MPs can prepare themselves for the debate. And MPs can only discuss a matter that is on the day’s business.
- But scheduled business can be set aside by a procedural mechanism called the “adjournment motion”. This Rule in Lok Sabha allows an MP to urge the Speaker to adjourn the House’s business “to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance”.
- The Speaker has to decide whether to allow the MP to move the motion. It results in the House dropping its scheduled list of business to discuss this urgent matter.
‘A very exceptional thing’
- The adjournment motion is a form of censure of the government. It originated in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, and started its journey in India under the rules of the pre-independent bicameral legislature established under the Government of India Act of 1919.
- After the passage of the Indian Constitution, two changes came about.
- First, the Council of Ministers became collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. As a result, in 1952, the adjournment motion found a place in the Lok Sabha Rule Book. Therefore it was left out of Rajya Sabha.
- Second, was the view of Lok Sabha Speakers on the use of adjournment motions by members. The first Speaker of Lok Sabha called the adjournment motion a “very exceptional thing”.
- Given the availability of other procedural devices in the Rule Book for MPs to raise urgent matters, Lok Sabha Speakers have been reluctant to allow adjournment motions. Most Lok Sabha have spent less than 3% of their time on adjournment motions.
Option in Rajya Sabha
- The Rajya Sabha Rule Book does not provide for an adjournment motion. Over the years, Rajya Sabha MPs have used Rule 267 to suspend Question Hour in the House to raise urgent matters.
- In 1952, this rule stated, “Any member may, with the consent of the Chairman, move that any rule may be suspended in its application to a particular motion before the Council and if the motion is carried the rule in question shall be suspended for the time being.”
- But in 2000, the Rules Committee of Rajya Sabha amended this Rule. The committee observed that MPs were using Rule 267 to seek discussion either on a matter not listed in the agenda for the particular day or on a subject that has not yet been admitted.
- The committee recommended an amendment to tighten Rule 267 only to allow the suspension of a Rule for a matter “related to the business listed before the Council of that day”.
- It also added a proviso that if an existing procedure allowed suspending Rules (like suspension of Question Hour), an MP could not use 267.
- So now 267 can be used only to suspend a Rule, only to take up matters that are already on the list of business.