Why in news?
- A ‘special’ five-day session of Parliament began on September 18.
- On August 31, the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs had announced that a special session of Parliament would be held from September 18 to 22.
- Although there is no specific provision in the Constitution that deals with special sessions, a few such sessions have been convened in the past.
- The most recent instance was in June 2017 when the PM Modi-led government held a special session to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
What’s in today’s article?
News Summary: Understanding the significance of the Parliament’s ‘special session’
When is Parliament convened as per the Constitution?
- Article 85 of the Constitution deals with prorogation and dissolution of Parliament.
- While there is no fixed schedule, the provisions of the Article specify that the President must summon the Houses to meet at least once within six months.
- The provision has its roots in the Government of India Act, 1935, according to which not more than 12 months should elapse between two sessions.
Is there a fixed timetable?
- No fixed number of sessions
- Although the Constitution doesn’t provide for a fixed number of sessions or days of sitting, three sessions are typically held each calendar year — the Budget, Monsoon, and Winter sessions.
- Attempt to finalise a fixed calendar
- An attempt was made in 1955 to finalise a fixed calendar.
- The General Purpose Committee of the Lok Sabha at their sitting held in April 1955 recommended that:
- the Budget Session take place between February and May,
- the Monsoon Session from July to September and
- the Winter Session from November to December.
- The Cabinet led by Jawaharlal Nehru also agreed to the recommendation, but it was never implemented.
- Since then, dates have been shuffled, and the duration has also varied as per the legislative agenda of the government.
- Current status
- The Budget Session is usually the longest.
- It commences towards the end of January, concludes by April-end and includes a recess for Parliamentary Standing Committees to consider the budget.
- It is followed by the Monsoon Session which begins in July and concludes in August.
- The Winter Session is usually held from November to December.
Who has the authority to call for a session?
- The Central government has the authority to call for a session.
- The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA), which includes several Cabinet ministers, determines the date and number of sittings.
- After finalising the session schedule, the President calls upon the Members of Parliament to convene for the upcoming session.
- The MPs are informed about the number of sittings and other details about the tentative business of the House through the summons sent by the President.
When is a ‘special session’ conducted?
- Constitutional provision
- The term ‘special session’ is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution or in the rulebooks of the two Houses of Parliament.
- There are no specific guidelines on how or when such a session can be convened.
- However, Article 352, which deals with the proclamation of Emergency, refers to a special sitting of the House.
- This clause was added through the 44th Amendment Act in 1978, which included safeguards against the Emergency.
- Historical precedent
- Several special sessions including midnight sessions have been called for a special purpose or agenda, or to mark occasions of national significance.
- The first such sitting was held on the eve of Independence in 1947 to mark the transfer of power from the British to India.
- This was followed by a special session in 1962 during the Indo-China war when the Winter Session was advanced to discuss the Chinese aggression.
- In 1992, a midnight session was called to mark the 50th anniversary of the Quit India Movemen
- A few years later, in August 1997, a six-day special session was called to commemorate 50 years of Independence.
- Special session from September 18 – 22
- The upcoming session from September 18 to 22 will be the second special session convened by the Present government.
- It will be conducted without Question Hour, Zero Hour, or private members’ business.