Understanding the significance of the Parliament ‘special session’
Sept. 19, 2023

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

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.