Deciphering Parliament's 'Special Session

Deciphering Parliament's 'Special Session
Posted on 19-09-2023

Deciphering the Significance of a 'Special Session' in Parliament

In the News: A unique five-day parliamentary session commenced on September 18, following the announcement by the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs on August 31. While the Indian Constitution does not explicitly define "special sessions," they have occurred sporadically throughout history, with the most recent instance being in June 2017 when the Modi-led government convened a special session to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Understanding Parliamentary Sessions According to the Constitution:

Article 85 of the Constitution addresses the prorogation and dissolution of Parliament. While no fixed schedule is mandated, the article stipulates that the President must summon the Houses to meet at least once within six months, a provision rooted in the Government of India Act, 1935. Although the Constitution doesn't prescribe a set number of sessions or days in session, traditionally, three sessions take place each calendar year: the Budget, Monsoon, and Winter sessions.

Historical Attempts at Establishing a Fixed Calendar:

In 1955, there was an attempt to establish a fixed parliamentary calendar. The General Purpose Committee of the Lok Sabha recommended sessions as follows:

  • Budget Session: February to May

  • Monsoon Session: July to September

  • Winter Session: November to December While this recommendation received approval from Jawaharlal Nehru's Cabinet, it was never put into practice. Since then, session dates and durations have varied based on the government's legislative agenda.

Authority to Convene Sessions:

The Central government, through the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA), which comprises several Cabinet ministers, holds the authority to decide session dates and the number of sittings. After finalizing the session schedule, the President issues summons to Members of Parliament, informing them of the number of sittings and tentative business.

Understanding 'Special Sessions':

The term 'special session' is not explicitly defined in the Constitution or parliamentary rulebooks. There are no specific guidelines governing how or when such sessions can be called. However, Article 352, which addresses the proclamation of a national Emergency, does reference a special sitting of the House. Historical precedents reveal that special sessions have been convened for specific purposes, such as marking national milestones or addressing critical issues.

Notable Special Sessions:

  • The first special session was held on the eve of Independence in 1947 to commemorate the transfer of power from the British to India.

  • In 1962, a special session was called during the Indo-China war when the Winter Session was advanced to discuss the Chinese aggression.

  • In 1992, a midnight session marked the 50th anniversary of the Quit India Movement.

  • August 1997 witnessed a six-day special session commemorating 50 years of Independence.

Current Special Session (September 18 - 22):

The upcoming session, scheduled from September 18 to 22, marks the second special session convened by the present government. Notably, this session will exclude the Question Hour, Zero Hour, and private members' business.

This special parliamentary session represents a unique event in India's legislative history, highlighting the government's focus on specific agendas and issues of national importance.

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