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India: Legislative Process
Country Study > Chapter 8 > Government and Politics > The Structure of Government > The Legislature > Legislative Process

LEGISLATIVE PROCESS


The initiative for substantial legislation comes primarily from the prime minister, cabinet members, and high-level officials. Although all legislation except financial bills can be introduced in either house, most laws originate in the Lok Sabha. A legislative proposal may go through three readings before it is voted on. After a bill has been passed by the originating house, it is sent to the other house, where it is debated and voted on. The second house can accept, reject, or amend the bill. If the bill is amended by the second house, it must be returned to the originating house in its amended form. If a bill is rejected by the second house, if there is disagreement about the proposed amendments, or if the second house fails to act on a bill for six months, the president is authorized to summon a joint session of Parliament to vote on the bill. Disagreements are resolved by a majority vote of the members of both houses present in a joint session. This procedure favors the Lok Sabha because it has more than twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha.

When the bill has been passed by both houses, it is sent to the president, who can refuse assent and send the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration. If both houses pass it again, with or without amendments, it is sent to the president a second time. The president is then obliged to assent to the legislation. After receiving the president's assent, a bill becomes an act on the statute book.

The legislative procedure for bills involving taxing and spending -- known as money bills -- is different from the procedure for other legislation. Money bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha. After the Lok Sabha passes a money bill, it is sent to the Rajya Sabha. The upper house has fourteen days to act on the bill. If the Rajya Sabha fails to act within fourteen days, the bill becomes law. The Rajya Sabha may send an amended version of the bill back to the Lok Sabha, but the latter is not bound to accept these changes. It may pass the original bill again, at which point it will be sent to the president for his signature.

During the 1950s and part of the 1960s, Parliament was often the scene of articulate debate and substantial revisions of legislation. Prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and P.V. Narasimha Rao, however, showed little enthusiasm for parliamentary debate. During the 1975-77 Emergency, many members of Parliament from the opposition as well as dissidents within Indira's own party were arrested, and press coverage of legislative proceedings was censored. It is generally agreed that the quality of discourse and the expertise of members of Parliament have declined since the 1960s. An effort to halt the decline of Parliament through a reformed committee system giving Parliament new powers of oversight over the executive branch has had very limited impact.

Under the constitution, the division of powers between the union government and the states is delimited into three lists: the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List. Parliament has exclusive authority to legislate on any of the ninety-seven items on the Union List. The list includes banking, communications, defense, foreign affairs, interstate commerce, and transportation. The State List includes sixty-seven items that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of state legislatures, including agriculture, local government, police, public health, public order, and trade and commerce within the state. The central -- or union -- government and state governments exercise concurrent jurisdiction over forty-four items on the Concurrent List, including criminal law and procedure, economic and social planning, electricity, factories, marriage and divorce, price control, social security and social insurance, and trade unions. The purpose of the Concurrent List is to secure legal and administrative unity throughout the country. Laws passed by Parliament relevant to Concurrent List areas take precedence over laws passed by state legislatures.




Last Updated: September 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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